Mauricio Pochettino won’t dismiss Barca link despite ‘bull in his arm’

Tottenham boss spent 11 years playing for and coaching Espanyol, Barca’s city rivals

 Mauricio Pochettino in his playing days with  Espanyol, up against rivals Barcelona at the Camp Nou Stadilum in 2004. Photograph: Getty Images

Mauricio Pochettino in his playing days with Espanyol, up against rivals Barcelona at the Camp Nou Stadilum in 2004. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has stepped back from suggestions he could never manage Barcelona because of his allegiances to their rivals Espanyol.

Pochettino spent eight years playing for Espanyol, Barca’s city rivals, before also coaching the team between 2009 and 2012.

The Argentinian was quoted in January as saying he was “born with a bull in his arm”, taken to mean he could never manage at the Nou Camp, but Pochettino was keen to correct that interpretation on Friday.

The Spurs boss insisted he had instead said he was born with a “ball in his arm”, as a metaphor for him understanding how football works.

Barcelona’s current manager Luis Enrique has announced he will leave at the end of the season and Pochettino has been linked with taking over this summer.

“I saw. It’s a big list, 100 names,” Pochettino said.

“It’s like if I left there would be a list of 50 names to replace me. That’s the business I know very well. I am born, not with the bull but a ball in my arms, I understand very well the business.”

Asked to explain his reference to “the bull”, Pochettino said: “Only I try to explain I know very well the business of football.

“When I was born it was true my mum and my dad put the ball, not the bull, but a football in my arms.

It’s a metaphor

“It’s a metaphorical example to say I understand that business, that my name will be on a list. I think you cannot explain any more.”

Pochettino certainly did not rule out a move to Barcelona but also insisted he was happy at Tottenham, with whom he signed a five-year contract last year.

“I understand I am at one of the biggest clubs in Europe, Tottenham is one of those,” Pochettino said.

“We are in a position where you can see we play good football, an exciting team with very good players, but it’s normal we call the attention of the rest of the clubs, of football people around the world.

“We are one of the exciting teams to watch. I don’t think about being flattered. We are part of that business and our name appears on the list.”

Before facing Manchester City and Pep Guardiola earlier this season, Pochettino spoke passionately about the hostility between Barcelona and Espanyol.

Espanyol is a club considered traditionally Spanish in its roots while Barcelona has always been associated with a strong Catalan identity.

“Barcelona looks bigger than Espanyol but in the end, Espanyol was the real Catalans, the foundation and basis of the club,” Pochettino said in September.

“That creates a bit of a problem between us. Always it was special to beat Barcelona because it is my sporting enemy.”

No comment

Another candidate for the job, Everton boss Ronald Koeman, refused to talk about speculation linking him with the forthcoming vacancy.

The former Barca player and assistant manager is used to rumours of a return to the Nou Camp and was steering well clear of the subject at his press conference on Friday.

The Dutchman said: “Every word from my side about Barcelona is too much.”

Meanwhile Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale has been suspended for two LaLiga matches for his dismissal against Las Palmas on Wednesday night.

The Wales international was shown a straight red card in the 3-3 home draw for a second-half kick and shove at opponent Jonathan Viera.

Bale will miss Real’s LaLiga clashes with Eibar on Saturday and Real Betis next weekend. He has also been fined €600 and the club €700 euros.

Real have 10 working days to appeal the decision.

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