Soccer

Jose Mourinho replaces Mauricio Pochettino at slumping Tottenham

AP, AFP-JIJI

Jose Mourinho sealed a return to coaching after almost a year out when he was hired as Tottenham manager on Wednesday, a day after the Premier League club fired Mauricio Pochettino.

“In Jose we have one of the most successful managers in football,” Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said. “He has a wealth of experience, can inspire teams and is a great tactician.”

Mourinho, who has won 25 major trophies as a manager, has been without a job since being fired by Manchester United in December. He also has experience of the Premier League through two spells with Chelsea, where he won the title three times.

Mourinho signed a contract until the end of the 2022-23 season.

“I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters,” Mourinho said. “The quality in both the squad and the academy excites me. Working with these players is what has attracted me.”

Tottenham, which reached the Champions League final last season, is currently 14th in the Premier League after winning just three of its 12 matches this campaign amid a decline in fortunes under Pochettino.

Mourinho’s first game in charge of Tottenham will be against West Ham on Saturday.

“We believe he will bring energy and belief to the dressing room,” Levy said.

Pochettino’s Tuesday dismissal followed a miserable start to the campaign for last season’s Champions League finalists, which has Tottenham at 14th in the Premier League after picking up just three wins from its opening 12 games, and was eliminated from the League Cup in September by fourth-tier Colchester United.

“The club can today announce that Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff Jesus Perez, Miguel D’Agostino and Antoni Jimenez have been relieved of their duties,” Tottenham said in a statement.

Pochettino, 47, transformed Spurs’ fortunes since arriving from Southampton in 2014 despite failing to win a trophy in his five-and-a-half years in charge.

During his five full seasons at the helm, Tottenham qualified for the Champions League four times, culminating in a dramatic run to the club’s first-ever European Cup final in June, which they lost 2-0 to Liverpool in Madrid.

However, domestic results have been on the decline since February, with Spurs clinging onto a top-four finish last season despite winning just three of their final 12 league games.

That form has continued at the start of this season with Pochettino leaving the club already 11 points outside the top four and 20 behind leaders Liverpool.

Tottenham also suffered an embarrassing 7-2 thrashing at home by Bayern Munich in the Champions League in September, but is well-placed to reach the last 16 behind the German giants in Group B.

“We were extremely reluctant to make this change and it is not a decision the board has taken lightly, nor in haste,” said Levy.

“Regrettably domestic results at the end of last season and beginning of this season have been extremely disappointing.

“It falls to the board to make the difficult decisions — this one made more so given the many memorable moments we have had with Mauricio and his coaching staff — but we do so in the club’s best interests.”

The job done by Pochettino was all the more remarkable given the tight budget he was afforded by Levy for transfers and wages in comparison to Tottenham’s Premier League rivals, as the club built a new stadium at a cost of over £1 billion ($1.3 billion).

Instead, much of Pochettino’s success came from nurturing a squad of young players into household names such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.

“I can’t thank this man enough,” Alli tweeted alongside a picture of Pochettino with the England international.

“He’s taught me so much and I’m so grateful for everything he’s done for me. Good luck and hope to see you again my friend.”

Tottenham was forced to play at temporary home Wembley Stadium for the entirety of the 2017-18 campaign and most of last season before moving into its new 62,000 capacity ground in April.

After 18 months without signing a single player, Levy finally loosened the purse strings to buy Tanguy Ndombele for a club-record £63 million ($81 million) in July and added Giovani lo Celso on loan and Ryan Sessegnon in the summer transfer window.

However, injuries have prevented that trio making an instant impact, while Pochettino bemoaned the disruptive effect of Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen all entering the final year of their contracts.

“I have the utmost admiration for the manner in which he dealt with the difficult times away from a home ground whilst we built the new stadium and for the warmth and positivity he brought to us,” added Levy.

“We have a talented squad. We need to re-energise and look to deliver a positive season for our supporters.”

However, the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’s Trust questioned Levy’s role in the diminishing results on the pitch, writing in a statement: “Is the manager solely accountable? How much has the board’s line on wages and transfers contributed to player unrest and disaffection?

“Poch gave us many of our best moments as supporters, made Tottenham Hotspur a force to be reckoned with again, and forged a strong link with the fans. We will never forget the joy he brought us.”