It was the monkey on his back throughout his career at Tottenham. Now, just days after his PSG tenure, Mauricio Pochettino has the chance to finish his trophy hoodoo in the Trophee des Champions final against Marseille.
While it may be the French equivalent of the Community Shield, they say a trophy is a trophy – and that will be exactly the philosophy the Argentinian will adopt when he walks out with his new players and bids for his fellow former Spurs boss Andre. Villas-Boas.
Pochettino appears to have all the tools to create success in the French capital – including superstars like World Cup winners Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Angel Di Maria, and getting his first silverware in the bag will surely make him sleep better in Paris.
Mauricio Pochettino can finally break his trophy duck by beating Marseille on Wednesday
His team at PSG is ready for success and he is expected to win big in the French capital
He built an impressive legacy at Spurs, but it was tarnished by a constant failure to win silverware
And that’s understandable given the mental anguish he suffered when he failed to get one at Spurs. And no matter how close he got – he fell short in two finals and three semifinals.
As with PSG, Pochettino also got the chance to take a first trophy in his first season with Tottenham in 2015 – although it was a much more difficult task against an experienced Chelsea side led by Jose Mourinho.
In comparison, his youthful Spurs team averaged 24 years old and full of diamonds in the rough, but no one could make a difference on the big day. Goals from John Terry and Diego Costa were enough to win for the Blues, but the North Londoners’ message was one of positivity.
‘These players are young and will learn from this, Pochettino needs time’.
His young Spurs side fell short in 2015 when they were defeated by an experienced Chelsea
But unfortunately they never learned how to win a trophy under his guidance, and neither did the Argentinian.
His next big shot came two years later against the same tough opponent at the same venue as Wembley. This time it was the FA Cup semi-final, with Antonio Conte his counterpart this time.
After Willian put Chelsea in the lead twice, Spurs hit back through Harry Kane and Dele Alli, but Eden Hazard hit late and a miracle goal from Nemanja Matic from a distance destroyed all hopes for a place in the final.
As after their cup final loss to the Blues, Pochettino insisted he was ‘proud’ of the team and said Chelsea was just more clinical, but a resentment was starting to build up among the Tottenham faithful – who were getting tired of their reputation as ‘bottlers’ on the big occasion.
The Blues tormented them again in the 2017 FA Cup semi-finals two years later
Pochettino insisted he was ‘proud’ of his players, but Spurs fans started to get frustrated
Spurs failed to relegate that label after reaching the same stage of the FA Cup the following season. It was the case of Deja Vu when Tottenham’s dreams were again crushed by Mourinho – when Manchester United came out of a goal to win the 2017-18 semi-final 2-1.
It was after this game that the cracks began to show in Pochettino’s belief that his Spurs project would finally take off, admitting ‘we’re close but we can’t reach’ and saying they were ‘far’ from the level that they wanted.
“To participate in these kinds of games, I think we are ready to compete, but winning is different,” he said. ‘The most important [thing] is that we are in this process, that we can compete after four years and that is fantastic.
A bleak defeat to United at the same stage in 2018 led Pochettino to claim Spurs were ‘far’ from winning trophies
‘But the disappointment and frustration is that we are close, but cannot reach. I have previously told your colleague that the club should continue with me or any other coaching staff, work in this direction and it will be fantastic for Tottenham to one day reach the same level as clubs like Manchester United and Manchester City. But it has a long way to go to get to this next level. ‘
It turns out he was right, as the 2018/19 season brought another semi-final loss to Chelsea – this time in the Carabao Cup – before leading his most painful day in the Champions League final.
His players had sealed the biggest night in their history with a dramatic stoppage time win over Ajax in the semi-final, a feat that seemed impossible with a 3-0 deficit at half time. When Lucas Moura’s shot rippled through the net, you felt it was his fate that Pochettino would land his first cup – and the biggest of them all.
But things quickly evaporated when an early Mo Salah penalty took the wind out of the sails in Madrid’s showpiece, and despite being in charge of the ball, his nervous stars couldn’t get through and were put to death by Divock Origi.
His most painful day came in the 2019 Champions League final when they lost 2-0 to Liverpool
His tenure began to go downhill shortly after, and he was fired by Spurs in November 2019
Pochettino’s expression after the full-time whistle was a picture of frustration – and it turned out to be the moment that really finished him off. Nothing has been the same since that night – not with him or his players as Spurs started to sink in the middle of the table the following season.
Reports began circulating that he began to watch training sessions inside before finally being fired in November. The loss in Madrid was too much of a disappointment and the last straw in his patience, as many accused him of simply not wanting to be with the club anymore.
So was it Pochettino or Tottenham? Some believe the Argentinian’s relentless high pressure took its toll on his players late in the season and was too easy to get around in a big game.
At PSG, Pochettino may have the staff he needs to secure victory on the big occasion
At PSG, he is expected to not only win, but also to win a lot. The Parisiens are used to taking home most of the domestic trophies, so Pochettino won’t earn any special praise for taking these home. But given the lack of any accolades on his resume, this will mean everything to him.
Marseille have not had the best starts of the Ligue 1 season and are currently in sixth place after just one win of their last five, but are still a huge threat with stars like Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin.
Meanwhile, Pochettino gets a boost to have Neymar back in training and can have him available for selection.
Pochettino is already on his first win – overseeing a 3-0 win over Brest – but he still has a lot to adjust.
At Spurs, his philosophy was to play for a young team of players with potential. Here he has a team of superstars ready to deliver for him. Maybe this team will finally help make it happen.