Former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino hopes to return to Newell's Old Boys, preferably with Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

Pochettino began his playing career at Newell's, where he emerged from the Argentine club's youth system in 1989 before moving to LaLiga outfit Espanyol in 1994.

The future of Pochettino continues to be speculated after he was sacked by Tottenham in November – linked to the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Pochettino, though, revealed his desire to make a Newell's comeback, alongside countryman and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi – who also spent his youth playing for Newell's.

"I hope to return to the club one day," the 48-year-old Pochettino told Radio del Plata.

"I can still wait, preferably it will be in 10 years. With [Lionel] Messi."

Another Argentinian, Lautaro Martinez, is also making headlines following his exploits for Serie A outfit Inter.

Martinez is reportedly attracting interest from LaLiga champions Barca, who are eyeing a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

"Lautaro Martinez is one of the best strikers in the world," Pochettino added.

"It's not just for what he does now, but for what his potential means going forward. If you start looking at hitmen for the big clubs, clearly his name has to be in there."

Paul Pogba is reportedly ready to stunningly re-sign with Manchester United.

The midfielder has been linked with a move away from the Premier League club throughout the season, one during which he has made just eight appearances in all competitions.

However, a fresh report suggests Pogba may yet stay at United.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA OPEN TO EXTENDING MAN UTD STAY

Pogba is ready to recommit to Manchester United, according to the Daily Mail.

The France international, who is contracted until 2021 but linked to Real Madrid and Juventus, sees his long-term future at the club and could even extend his deal, the report says.

Bruno Fernandes has helped lead a turnaround in form for United, who are unbeaten in 10 games.

ROUND-UP

- With Zinedine Zidane's future at Real Madrid increasingly uncertain, Marca reports former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino would be the main candidate to replace the Frenchman.

- Amid the troubles at AC Milan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's return at San Siro may not last that long. CalcioMercato reports the striker's future with the club is in danger with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

- Marc-Andre ter Stegen has a deal at Barcelona until 2022, but it remains to be seen how long he stays at Camp Nou. Goal reports the LaLiga club are unable to meet the demands of the star goalkeeper.

- Linked repeatedly with a move for Moussa Dembele throughout last close season, United are lining up a fresh £60million (€68.4m) move for the Lyon forward, according to The Sun. Dembele has scored 22 goals in 42 games this season.

- With Hirving Lozano seemingly unwanted at Napoli, several European clubs are said to be interested in the attacker. CalcioMercato reports Atletico Madrid, Everton and West Ham are keen to sign Lozano.

Manchester City's two-season Champions League ban could be about to reverberate through the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola's future had been a topic of discussion prior to UEFA handing down sanctions for "serious" Financial Fair Play breaches and the loss of European competition has fuelled suggestions the Catalan could quit the club.

Media reports indicate City already have alternatives in mind, and their search for a successor looks set to pose problems for Premier League rivals.

 

TOP STORY – CITY EYE PEP REPLACEMENTS

Mauricio Pochettino and Brendan Rodgers are among the contenders to take over at City if Guardiola walks, according to The Telegraph.

The report states the pair "would be in the running" to become the club's next manager in the event their current boss decides to leave at the end of the season.

Ex-Tottenham manager Pochettino recently admitted he would "love" to return to the Premier League, telling the 'In The Pink' podcast: "It's going to be difficult, I know, and for now it's a moment to wait and we'll see what happens."

The Argentinian has been heavily linked to City's cross-town rivals Manchester United, while Rodgers is tied to Leicester City until 2025.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus-linked Guardiola might not be the only big name headed for the Etihad Stadium exit. The Sun claims Real Madrid will launch an "all-out assault" in a bid to sign Raheem Sterling.

- City could potentially even be docked Premier League points for the same Financial Fair Play breaches that compelled UEFA to act, says The Guardian.

- Meanwhile, over at Old Trafford, United have set their asking price for Paul Pogba at £130million, reports the Daily Star.

- As for potential arrivals, United are interested in Norwich City pair Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons plus West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, states the Daily Mail.

- Serie A side Milan are no closer to extending Gianluigi Donnarumma's deal beyond June 2021, according to Tuttomercato, and LaLiga title contenders Madrid are monitoring the situation.

- Sky Sport Germany continues to link former Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac to manager-less Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin, who saw Jurgen Klinsmann leave earlier in the week.

Manchester United or Chelsea?

The two Premier League giants are reportedly going head-to-head in the race to sign Borussia Dortmund teenager and England international Jadon Sancho.

And the Manchester club feel they can prise the 19-year-old to Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED BELIEVE THEY CAN PIP CHELSEA TO SANCHO

Manchester United are confident they will beat rivals Chelsea to the signing of in-demand Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, claims The Mirror.

Sancho is reportedly keen on returning to England, where the 19-year-old played for Manchester City's youth team before joining Bundesliga outfit Dortmund in 2017.

Dortmund are apparently willing to offload Sancho at the right price and Premier League giants United believe they can prise the England international to Old Trafford in a deal worth £120million (€142.5m).

 

ROUND-UP

- Will Mauricio Pochettino land at Old Trafford? According to journalist Duncan Castles, the former Tottenham manager is determined to take charge of United . His representatives are reportedly confident of convincing United's hierarchy that Pochettino is the right man for the job as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggles, with the Red Devils eighth in the Premier League.

- The Sun reports United are set for a double swoop to sign Aston Villa star Jack Grealish and Leicester City attacker James Maddison . Grealish has reportedly given the go-ahead for a move to Old Trafford, while Maddison has apparently been in talks over a contract extension with Leicester.

Marcelo Brozovic to Real Madrid? Mundo Deportivo says the Inter and Croatia international midfielder is wanted by the LaLiga giants. Madrid have also been linked to United's Paul Pogba and Ajax star Donny van de Beek

Barcelona have been told it will take €35m to sign Willian Jose from Real Sociedad, reports Marca. Barca are looking to strengthen their attack following long-term injuries to Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez.

- According to The Express, Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho is plotting a £120m transfer spree at the end of the season. Benfica defender Ruben Dias is a target, as well as Norwich City's Max Aarons, Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake and Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell.

Stefano Pioli is contracted to Milan until 2021 but the head coach – who replaced Marco Giampaolo at the start of the campaign – is no certainty to continue beyond this season. According to Calciomercato, Elliott Management want Ralf Rangnick but Paolo Maldini is reportedly pushing for former Milan striker and current Ukraine boss Andriy Shevchenko.

- Football Insider claims Liverpool are set to offer star defender Virgil van Dijk a new £50m deal amid reported interest from Serie A champions Juventus.

Mauricio Pochettino said he would "love" to work in the Premier League again as the former Tottenham manager continues to be linked with Manchester United.

Pochettino led Tottenham to the Champions League final last season but was sacked in November and replaced by Jose Mourinho.

Barcelona emerged as a possible destination for Pochettino until the LaLiga champions turned to Quique Setien, however, links to United refuse to subside.

Pochettino is reportedly keen on the United job as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggles at Old Trafford, where the Red Devils are eighth and six points adrift of the top four.

"To be honest, I would love to work in the Premier League," Pochettino said on 'In The Pink' podcast.

"It's going to be difficult, I know, and for now it's a moment to wait and we'll see what happens.

"It's a moment of recovery, to think about yourself a little bit, and to be ready because in football always something can happen and you need to be ready.

"I'm ready and waiting for a new challenge. I have the belief and confidence that the next challenge will be fantastic."

Pochettino added: "I was in Argentina, I was in Qatar, I was in Spain and I have Jesus [Perez, assistant manager to Pochettino at Spurs] who follows the news a little bit but I notice the rumours.

"All of the coaching staff accept that there are rumours. We deal with rumours naturally.

"The people need natural people, normal people and we don't say that we are unique with that but we are not actors and we don't do anything that we don't believe."

If a Premier League job does not arise, Pochettino will pursue an opportunity outside of England.

"If we move to Europe," the 47-year-old Argentinian said. "We are going to miss England."

Paris Saint-Germain reportedly have no interest in listening to offers for star Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe, 21, has repeatedly been linked to Real Madrid, rumours which only intensified after the forward was involved in a bust-up with coach Thomas Tuchel.

But PSG are prepared to make the France international see out his contract, rather than lose one of their star players.

 

TOP STORY – PSG STANDING FIRM OVER MBAPPE AMID MADRID LINKS

PSG will not listen to offers for Mbappe amid links to Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Mbappe is contracted in Paris until 2022 and the Ligue 1 giants are willing to make him see out his deal.

PSG have also tried to extend Mbappe's contract, moves which are set to continue despite his seeming unhappiness at the club.

ROUND-UP

- With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under some pressure at Old Trafford, Mauricio Pochettino has not given up on becoming Manchester United manager ahead of next season, according to the Mirror.

- While Pochettino may arrive, Paul Pogba seems likely to leave United. Tuttosport reports the midfielder and Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala dream of playing together again, with Pogba perhaps set for a return to Turin. Dybala is in contract talks with Juventus with his deal expiring in 2022.

- Jack Grealish seems to know where he wants to be. Goal reports the midfielder is ready to join Manchester United from Aston Villa, although no formal talks have taken place. The Sun says Grealish prefers Manchester United over other clubs, while the Mirror reports Manchester City have joined the race for the Englishman.

- With Luis Suarez set to miss most of the rest of the season due to injury, Barcelona are eyeing a move for … Luis Suarez. El Larguero reports Barcelona have made contact with Real Zaragoza over the forward, who is on loan from Watford. Suarez has scored 14 goals in the Segunda Division this season.

- On loan at Newcastle United from Tottenham, Danny Rose will be watched by Paris Saint-Germain ahead of a possible move at the end of the season, according to The Sun.

Eric Abidal's interview tipped Lionel Messi over the edge.

Normally quiet, especially on social media, Messi used Instagram to hit out at Barcelona director of football Abidal, who had earlier suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's sacking.

Barca superstar Messi is reportedly unhappy with how things are unfolding at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI TIRED OF BEING BARCA SCAPEGOAT

Lionel Messi is tired of being held responsible for everything that happens at Barcelona amid doubts over his future, according to COPE and Marca.

Contracted until 2021, captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi snapped back at Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal for bad-mouthing players at the club as he discussed Ernesto Valverde's exit.

It comes amid discontent towards the board and Barca's struggles on the pitch.

Clubs in China, the United States and the Middle East would all be interested should the Argentine opt for a change of scenery.

 

ROUND-UP

- Has Paul Pogba played his last game for Manchester United? The Red Devils are resigned to losing Pogba at the end of the season, reports The Mirror. Linked to Real Madrid and former club Juventus, Pogba has not featured since December due to an ongoing ankle problem.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Mirror says United will prioritise signing Aston Villa star Jack Grealish as fellow midfield target James Maddison nears a new deal with Leicester City.

Atletico Madrid will consider Mauricio Pochettino as their next head coach if they move on from Diego Simeone, reports the Telegraph. Pochettino continues to be linked with United, who are struggling under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

- Standard Sport claims Chelsea will sign Lyon striker Moussa Dembele at the end of the season after failing to land the Frenchman in January.

- Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Arsenal, reports The Sun. Arsenal enquired about the 22-year-old Brazilian's availability last month.

Milan snubbed the chance to sign Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic in January, says Calciomercato. Matic is out of contract at season's end but is open to extending his time in Manchester.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to be linked with a move from Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain are the latest European heavyweight reportedly interested in the forward.

Aubameyang, 30, is reportedly a target for Barcelona after scoring 16 goals in 26 games for struggling Arsenal this season.

However, with Edinson Cavani potentially leaving, PSG are also eyeing the Gabon international.

 

TOP STORY – PSG INTERESTED IN AUBAMEYANG AMID BARCELONA LINKS

PSG are considering a move for Aubameyang, according to Foot Mercato.

Cavani may leave the Ligue 1 giants for Atletico Madrid during this transfer window and Aubameyang could be his replacement, the report says.

PSG are reportedly discussing a loan with an option to buy Aubameyang.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal are close to a deal for Flamengo defender Pablo Mari, according to ESPN and other reports. The Premier League club will reportedly pay £8.4million (€10m) for the Spaniard.

- Marcos Rojo could be on his way out of Manchester United. After just three Premier League appearances this season, the defender is heading back to Estudiantes – where he started his career – on loan, according to the Mirror.

- Carles Perez is set to join Roma. Sky Sport Italia reports the Barcelona forward will join the Serie A club on loan until the end of the season, with a mandatory purchase option for €13m to be part of the deal.

- Inter are already preparing for a period of dominance, including next season. Sport Italia reports Napoli star Lorenzo Insigne has been offered to Inter, who may land the forward ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

- Inter and Napoli seem to have a decent relationship. CalcioMercato reports Matteo Politano will swap Milan for Naples, where he will sign a deal until 2024 with a medical set for Monday.

- Mauricio Pochettino remains without a job after being sacked by Tottenham in November. The Mirror reports Spurs will be entitled to £10m in compensation if the Argentinian finds another job before the end of the season.

Mauricio Pochettino has suggested his next coaching position will be in Spain or England as LaLiga and the Premier League are "the two best leagues in the world".

The former Tottenham boss, who was sacked in November and replaced by Jose Mourinho, was linked with the Barcelona job before Quique Setien was named Ernesto Valverde's successor.

Pochettino has been heavily linked with Manchester United during what has been an inconsistent season for the Red Devils under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 47-year-old certainly appears prepared to take another job in England's top flight, although he also admires LaLiga, where he began his senior coaching career with Espanyol.

He said at a LaLiga TV event: "For me, I was so lucky to start my career as a manager at Espanyol in Barcelona and then to come to the Premier League to learn a different language and culture and I am a better person today.

"I have more knowledge and had a great experience. The Premier League is the Premier League. Football was born here in England but I think LaLiga has amazing football and amazing coaches."

He added: "England and Spain are the two best leagues in the world."

Pochettino is reported to have been approached about the Barcelona job despite insisting previously he could never take charge at Camp Nou due to his ties with city rivals Espanyol.

With Setien now installed on a contract until June 2022, Pochettino admits he will be very interested to follow the former Real Betis coach's efforts.

"Barcelona, of course, are one of the greatest teams in the world. Of course, now with the new manager, everyone is expecting him to continue the same philosophy," he said.

"Valverde did a fantastic job in LaLiga and with Barcelona and it's a massive challenge for Quique Setien. He showed unbelievable love for Johan Cruyff and the style of football of Barcelona.

"I think it's a great opportunity for him to live his dream and it's so amazing to follow what's going to happen."

Barcelona appear ready to turn to their next coaching target as the LaLiga giants eye Mauricio Pochettino.

Ernesto Valverde is under enormous pressure after the Supercopa de Espana semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid, but Xavi has reportedly turned down the job – for now.

Amid contrasting reports over Barca's next decision, they may be lining up a move for Pochettino.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA CONTACT POCHETTINO OVER COACHING JOB

Barcelona contacted former Tottenham manager Pochettino to be their next boss, according to RAC1.

It comes as widespread reports in Spain say Al Sadd boss and former Barcelona star Xavi turned down the position.

Meanwhile, Catalunya Radio reported Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman also rejected the opportunity.

After a meeting on Sunday, Barca decided to stick with Valverde for now, according to Sport.

ROUND-UP

- Amid reports Manchester United had agreed to terms with Bruno Fernandes, the Mirror says the Premier League club are set to bid £65million (€76.1m) for the Sporting CP midfielder this week.

- Tottenham are set to sign Benfica's Gedson Fernandes as further details about a possible move emerge. Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano reports Spurs will sign the Portugal international on loan with an option to buy for between £42.7m (€50m) and £51.2m (€60m) in 2021.

- Jerome Boateng continues to be linked with a Bayern Munich exit. Milan are ready to challenge Arsenal for the defender, according to Sky Germany.

- Coming out of contract at season's end, it appears Layvin Kurzawa's future is away from Paris Saint-Germain. L'Equipe reports the left-back – who has made just five Ligue 1 starts this campaign – recently rejected Inter but the Serie A club remain hopeful of signing the 27-year-old this month.

- Juventus are looking to the future. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A champions are keeping an eye on teenage Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch and AZ forward Calvin Stengs.

Massimiliano Allegri is without a club since leaving Serie A champions Juventus at the end of 2018-19.

However, Allegri could be nearing a return to management sooner rather than later.

The Italian is believed to be interested in taking charge of Manchester United.

 

TOP STORY – ALLEGRI WANTS UNITED JOB

Massimiliano Allegri is interested in becoming Manchester United manager as pressure mounts on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the Daily Mail.

Allegri has been rumoured to be of interest to Bayern Munich after leaving Serie A champions Juve at the end of last season, while the Italian was also linked to Arsenal prior to Mikel Arteta's appointment.

However, he is reportedly holding out for the United job should Solskjaer be sacked. Ex-Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is also believed to be monitoring the situation.

 

ROUND-UP

- ElDesmarque claims MLS duo Inter Miami and LA Galaxy are ready to vie for the signature of Real Madrid's Gareth BaleChelsea, though, have also been linked with the former Tottenham star.

- The race is heating up for Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek. Struggling for goals and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic back at San Siro, the Poland international is wanted by Tottenham, reports The Guardian and Calciomercato. Spurs want to boost their attacking options following Harry Kane's injury. Aston Villa have also tabled a bid for Piatek, but Calciomercato claims he is holding out for a bigger club.

- While Piatek could prove a difficult signing, Villa are closing in on Milan goalkeeper Pepe Reina. Calciomercato, Gazzetta dello Sport and Tuttomercatoweb say former Liverpool keeper Reina has agreed a contract with the Premier League side until the end of the season.

- The Mirror reports United are in the market to sign a defender on loan after Harry Maguire's injury. Maguire – the world's most expensive defender – is facing a spell on the sidelines due to a muscle tear.

United are also weighing up a move for Ajax and Netherlands star Donny van de Beek, reports The Telegraph. With Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba injured, the Red Devils are in need of midfield reinforcements. Van de Beek has previously been linked to Real Madrid.

- AS claims Atletico Madrid are looking at Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik as an alternative to Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani. Out of contract at season's end, Cavani is reportedly poised to make the move to Atletico, however, United and Arsenal are also interested.

- Gianluca Di Marzio says Inter winger Matteo Politano has agreed to join city rivals Milan. Struggling for game time with the Nerazzurri, Politano's agent met with Milan's management on Wednesday as a shock switch nears.

Chelsea are preparing a £40million bid for West Ham defender Issa Diop, according to the Express. London rivals Tottenham are also reportedly interested.

Mauricio Pochettino has admitted he would have considered taking the Arsenal job if he had been approached, despite his "love" for former club Tottenham.

The 47-year-old was sacked by Tottenham on November 19 after a difficult start to the season, with Jose Mourinho brought in as his replacement the following day.

He returned to his native Argentina to unwind but declared earlier this month he is open to making a swift return to the dugout should the right opportunity present itself.

Pochettino was linked with the Arsenal job following Unai Emery's departure, but Mikel Arteta was confirmed as the club's new permanent head coach on Friday.

However, the former Espanyol and Southampton boss has reiterated he would have been open to talking with Arsenal over the position and potentially crossing the north London divide.

"When I say I am open, I am open. I cannot say that I am open but I'm closed to someone," he said, according to The Mirror.

"It's different if you receive an approach and you listen and say yes or no. That's different.

"But you can't say that I'm open but on that I am not open. You are open and then you are open. Anything can happen. When I say I am open, I am open to listen to any club."

Pochettino has also been mentioned as a possible successor to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City amid speculation the Catalan coach is considering an end-of-season exit.

Addressing the recent speculation, Pochettino said: "To be honest, I don't read too much. I'm lucky now because I have [assistant] Jesus Perez with me and he reads it all for me.

"Of course I love the Premier League, the English fans and if not the best, it's one of the best leagues in the world and for any manager it's very exciting to be involved in the Premier League.

"But it's not just the Premier League, there's other leagues, different clubs which can be exciting and can give you a challenge that is maybe different."

Pochettino guided Spurs to four successive top-four finishes in the Premier League and to their first Champions League final earlier this year.

Chairman Daniel Levy this week suggested Pochettino could return to Tottenham for a second spell one day, and the Argentinian is not ruling anything out.

"Look at what happened with Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid - there's plenty of examples and the most important thing is when you finish the relationships remain in a very good way and my love for Tottenham goes on," he said.

"You feel that always from the fans, you feel the love and in football you never know. The same coaches or managers one day leave and then go back, different presidents, different times. Now it's not in my hands, it's in another person's hands.

"We need to move on and of course you have different motivations and challenges in our life and we have to make sure we have the right energy to attack the new challenge and try to achieve all the new things that people expect from you."

Mikel Arteta looks to be on his way out of Manchester City, and it may not be long before he is followed by Pep Guardiola.

That is if reports linking Paris Saint-Germain with a move for the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach are to be believed.

Meanwhile, Arteta is not the only big managerial appointment expected imminently in the Premier League, with Carlo Ancelotti close to being confirmed as Everton boss, and reports suggest a big-name could be in line to follow the Italian to Goodison Park.

 

TOP STORY – GUARDIOLA LINED UP BY PSG

According to Le10 Sport, Paris Saint-Germain will look to swap Thomas Tuchel with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola next season.

Guardiola is currently under contract with City until 2021, though has said he is open to extending his deal. However, these reports claim PSG will aim to bring in the Spaniard, along with former Barca star Xavi, who will act as his number two.

While City are 14 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, PSG are top of Ligue 1 and will face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last 16.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun claims Mauricio Pochettino is holding off on making any commitment to Real Madrid as he waits to see how Guardiola's situation at Manchester City plays out.

- According to The Telegraph, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is open to linking up with former boss Carlo Ancelotti at Everton. Ancelotti is reportedly set to be appointed by the Toffees and Ibrahimovic – who has been linked to Milan and Napoli – could follow him to Merseyside.

Mesut Ozil is close to securing a loan move from Arsenal to Fenerbahce in January, according to Turkish newspaper Fotomac.

- Madrid winger Vinicius Jr. has been linked with a move to the Premier League. El Desmarque reports Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Wolves are all interested in the Brazilian.

- Another potential outgoing from Arsenal could be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with The Mirror saying one of Arteta's first tasks will be to convince the Gunners' captain to stay put.

- Sky Sports reports Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs are all monitoring Lille forward Victor Osimhen, who has scored nine Ligue 1 goals this term.

- Inter great Dejan Stankovic is poised to become head coach of Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade. After Vladan Milojevic stepped down on Thursday, reports in Serbia claim the former Red Star midfielder will be unveiled on Friday. This is set to be Stankovic's first senior job.

Tottenham are considering a January move for Leicester City full-back Ricardo Pereira, says Het Nieuwsblad.

Mauricio Pochettino could one day return to Tottenham for a second spell at the helm, chairman Daniel Levy has suggested.

Pochettino – who guided Spurs to four successive top-four finishes in the Premier League, as well as last season's Champions League final – was sacked in November following a poor start to the campaign.

Jose Mourinho was swiftly appointed his successor, with Spurs winning five of their seven matches since in all competitions.

Levy made the call to dismiss Pochettino, but hinted it does not necessarily mean the end of the Argentine's association with Spurs, who established themselves as one of the Premier League's elite clubs under his guidance.

"You have to understand I had built up a personal relationship with Mauricio over five and a half years," Levy told the Evening Standard.

"It is not something I ever wanted. Personally, it was incredibly difficult, I told him that and he understood.

"He's been in football [a long time], he understands. It's not personal and I'm sure he'll come back stronger and get an opportunity to manage another great club. Maybe one day he'll come back to us.

"I'm not going to sit here and analyse the past. It's not productive. Mauricio did a fantastic job for us, we are very grateful. I wish him all the best for the future.

"I'm still in contact with him. My relationship is very good with him. It just got to the point where it felt we needed a divorce."

Spurs wasted little time in bringing in Mourinho and, though Levy confirmed other options were considered, the Portuguese was always the club's top priority.

"Many years ago, I can't remember exactly, we were linked with him," said Levy. "But I'd never spoken to Jose. We never had a conversation. And his availability was totally unrelated to Mauricio, not connected at all.

"I can't remember when I first spoke to Jose, but once I made the decision in my mind we had to make the change, although internally we knew of more than one candidate who would have been interested, Jose was absolutely number one.

"We had a number of discussions. Firstly, it was such a hard decision and you never know what you are really getting until you work with somebody.

"There are lots of perceptions out there in relation to Jose that I'm not sure are true. I wanted to spend some time with him so we were totally aligned, on the basis there was no point him coming to a club where he expected different things to us. And we were totally aligned on the strategy going forward."

Master meets apprentice in the Premier League this weekend as Jose Mourinho and Tottenham entertain Frank Lampard's Chelsea.

Spurs, after taking 12 points from a possible 15 under their new boss, have the chance to climb above their London rivals and into the top four.

Mourinho managed Lampard across two separate stints at Stamford Bridge and will hope to assert his authority after the then-Derby County boss knocked his Manchester United team out of the EFL Cup in September 2018.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have endured a sudden run of losses that leaves them in danger of coming unstuck against opponents who have enjoyed a swift rise since parting ways with Mauricio Pochettino.

Here, we assess Opta data to determine what changes Mourinho has made, and whether there could be problems ahead.

 

FINE FINISHING MASKING MOURINHO'S SHORTCOMING?

Part of the Mourinho package that must have appealed to Daniel Levy was the Portuguese's ability to organise a defence and eradicate the vulnerabilities that led to results like the 7-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich.

The 56-year-old, however, has acted against type in his fourth life as a Premier League boss, releasing the handbrake on a Spurs side that has scored 14 times in five matches under the new regime.

Their return of 2.8 goals per game exceeds the scoring average recorded in each of Pochettino's five full seasons in charge and is double the number managed across the final 12 games he oversaw.

Can it be sustained? Dele Alli, Lucas Moura, Harry Kane and company will surely find it difficult to maintain the 58 per cent shooting accuracy that has helped lift the gloom. The closest Spurs came to achieving such sharpness with Pochettino in the manager's seat was the 53 per cent they posted in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Tottenham's number of shots per game has, in fact, dipped significantly since his departure, to 11.8 on average with Mourinho at the helm.

That figure ranks well below the levels set under Pochettino, particularly the 17.6 attempted per 90 minutes in 2016-17 and even the 12.5 that were being unleashed before the managerial change was made this term.

Superficially, the current shot conversion rate of 24 per cent works in Mourinho's favour, but there is a risk of results turning if such clinical finishing reverts to somewhere close to their mean of 11.6 per cent under Pochettino.

 

NO PREOCCUPATION WITH POSSESSION

Unsurprisingly, Tottenham are now seeing less of the ball than they did under Pochettino, a footballer and coach of the Marcelo Bielsa school.

Mourinho has presided over a decline in average possession to 50 per cent; over the course of a full campaign, his predecessor's teams never averaged less then 59 per cent.

Passing accuracy has naturally become a lower priority as this more functional Spurs side looks to get the ball forward quicker in order to better harness Alli's ingenuity and Son Heung-min's speed.

Near their peak, in the 2016-17 campaign that saw them finish second behind Chelsea, Tottenham were completing over 60 more passes per game.

Mourinho would argue that such statistics are irrelevant on matchday, especially one as important as Sunday.

He might, however, have more time for a review of his record in games against the clubs that have employed him in the past.

EDGING HIS EXES

Mourinho has demonstrated a well-documented taste for attention throughout his successful managerial career and he will be under the spotlight when the Blues make the short trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Chelsea have hit a slump of four defeats in five Premier League matches at an inopportune time but should take no real fear from their former boss' record against previous employers.

Mourinho has faced old clubs on 33 occasions and won 18 times, losing nine and drawing the other six.

A win percentage of 55 per cent from those matches could do with improving for a man set to face a club that dismissed him twice.

Chelsea, of course, have appeared buoyant under a much-loved figure who recently said he would never manage Tottenham, and will hope to show that Mourinho's Spurs lack substance.

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