Tottenham players told to focus on title, not transfer rumours
Pochettino dismisses attempts by Xavi to link Dele Ali with Manchester City
Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli is rumoured to be a target of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
The manager is focused on the trip to Crystal Palace on Wednesday night, when his team will attempt to bounce back from Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat against Chelsea. But, as the summer approaches, his greatest challenge – as it was last year – looks set to be fending off the predators who would swoop for his brightest stars.
Pochettino has grown accustomed to seeing the links, with the latest one involving Manchester City and Dele Alli. According to Xavi Hernández, the former Barcelona midfielder, who is now at Al Sadd in Qatar, the City manager, Pep Guardiola – under whom he worked at the Camp Nou – is an admirer of Alli. “I speak with Pep,” Xavi said. “Technically, he [Alli] is the sort of player he likes. I am sure Tottenham will not want to let him go but we know City have big resources.”
It drew a dismissive response from Pochettino, who joked that Xavi was his sporting “enemy”. During Pochettino’s time as a player and the manager of Espanyol, he found himself on the other side to Xavi in Barcelona derbies. But Pochettino saw fit to make a broader point about the need for his players to concentrate on the club’s final six matches of the season, beginning with Palace, and nothing else.
He and the chairman, Daniel Levy, have a plan for the summer window which, Pochettino said, involved selling players that only they decided to sell. He added that they would “sell players because of the players we want to sign” and he called upon the fans to trust them.
It sounded as though he would not rule out cashing in on a big-name player if it meant the squad as a whole becoming stronger. In the meantime, though, the only target was to chase down Chelsea at the top of the table.
“We will take the best decisions to achieve things and improve again next season,” Pochettino said. “Trust in the club. But please be focused now on the present. Don’t think about rumours, don’t think about what will happen next season. The fans deserve our focus.
“Because we are doing things and the club has a lot of potential, there is a focus on our talented players. But the good thing is that we have a plan to try to improve and we will deliver it when we finish the season. The players that we want to keep, we will keep. He [Levy] said to me: ‘We don’t need money.’ If we sell some players, it is because we want to sell some players.”
On Xavi’s comments about Alli, Pochettino added: “He’s in a period where he loves to talk. He’s in Dohar. He tries to destroy our focus to win because he hates me. He’s Barcelona.
“On Monday, Thierry Henry came to our training ground [to interview Harry Kane for Sky TV] and we remembered the Barcelona v Espanyol game from December 2009, in which Henry played for Barcelona. I was the Espanyol manager. In it, Xavi cheated the referee. He fell down and got a penalty. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored and Barcelona won 1-0. I always remember Xavi for that decision.
“Afterwards, on the video, it was very funny because no one touched him but in the media, he said: ‘No, I promise. It was a penalty.’ Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie. Maybe, Xavi is working for Manchester City. He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”