Sam Dean
Mauricio Pochettino
Pochetinno wouldn't find the perfect club and the perfect project at Barcelona, as he wishes, but in a footballing world much changed after Covid-19, when will something better come along? Credit: Rex

It is impossible to pinpoint the exact moment Mauricio Pochettino changed his mind about Barcelona, but we can safely assume it happened at some point in the last nine months.

Having twice insisted during his Tottenham Hotspur days that he would never manage the club, even saying in January 2018 that he would rather work on his farm in Argentina than take over at the Nou Camp, Pochettino’s tone was somewhat different during an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais earlier this month.

Asked about those comments about his farm, Pochettino said: “I am not arrogant and I did not like making a statement like that. Maybe now I wouldn’t, because you never know what will happen in life.”

Pochettino’s loyalty to Espanyol, his former club, was the reason for his stance but, out of work for nine months now, he has had plenty of time to reconsider. In May, he said his tank was “completely full” and that he was ready to go back to the dugout if he was offered “the perfect club, the perfect project”.

A dysfunctional Barcelona, thrashed 8-2 by Bayern Munich in one of the great defeats of European football, is neither the perfect club nor the perfect project. Indeed there cannot be many more emphatically imperfect teams in European football. ‘Mes que un club’ has become ‘mess of a club’ after a season defined by boardroom chaos, financial uncertainty and horrific squad mismanagement.

三级成人视频On Friday night, Barcelona’s third most expensive ever signing, Antoine Griezmann, was a second-half substitute. Their second most expensive ever signing, Ousmane Dembele, remained on the bench throughout. And their most expensive-ever signing, Philippe Coutinho, scored twice for the opposition team. Between them, these three players cost around £360 million. As made clear by the front pages of Spanish newspapers AS and Sport on Saturday morning, these are truly “historic” levels of ineptitude.

“We have hit rock bottom,” said defender Gerard Pique. “This is not the first, nor the second, nor the third time. We are not on the right path. The club needs changes. And I am not talking at the level of the coach or the players, but structurally the club needs changes of all kinds.”

For Pochettino, or indeed any other potential managers looking in from the outside, there are even more red flags than were flying at Anfield last year, the scene of Barcelona’s previous Champions League humiliation.

And yet, for all of these reasons to steer clear, it is still Barcelona. And they still have Lionel Messi. Like a teenage girlfriend desperate to be the one to change the school bad boy, Pochettino might consider himself capable of turning the whole thing around.

三级成人视频The 48-year-old’s self-belief has never been in doubt, and it is easy to see the appeal to the club of his people-driven approach to management. According to reports in the Spanish press, Pochettino is the club’s preferred candidate to take over from the doomed Quique Setien.

The players certainly need a lift and Pochettino’s record with youth makes him well placed to revolutionise the squad. The ageing core group of players — Pique, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez are all in their 30s — needs easing out, but there is young talent that can be nurtured. The likes of Dembele, Frenkie De Jong, Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig have the potential to be world-class players.

If not Barcelona for Pochettino, then what? Paris-Saint Germain, perhaps, but Thomas Tuchel’s position was made safer by their dramatic Champions League quarter-final victory over Atalanta. The Juventus job has already come and gone, with Andrea Pirlo appointed a day after Maurizio Sarri had been fired. The Manchester United post is no longer up for grabs.

There is always Real Madrid, of course. The Spanish capital has always felt like Pochettino’s ideal destination yet, again, the timing is not quite right. Does he wait for the end of Zinedine Zidane’s reign? Can he continue to wait, drifting further out of sight and out of mind? If nine months becomes a year, and a year becomes 18 months, does Pochettino still carry the same appeal to Europe’s biggest clubs?

三级成人视频The truth is, in a footballing world ravaged by Covid-19, Pochettino’s “perfect project” may never come along. Barcelona represents perhaps the biggest challenge of all but no one can accuse Pochettino of lacking bravery if he dares to take it on.