"Manchester City are the best English team," states Mauricio Pochettino prior to the Champions League final
The following is a summary of the telephone interview held by Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur's coach, and the Argentine newspaper LA NACION prior to the UEFA Champions League final. The game, credited by the trainer as "the most important club match in the world", will face the Spurs and Liverpool this Saturday in Madrid.
"You don't play finals -you win them", states Pochettino, who anyway believes that Manchester City, the Premiership's champion, are "the best English team".
-This year's Europe League and Champions League finals will be all-English affairs. England is the current U-17 and U-20 world champion. And the English national team played the semi-finals of Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup. English football dominates the world?
-Today, yes. Maybe not yesterday nor tomorrow, but today, the answer is yes. Your description shows that England is today the center of world football. It's a matter of periods, cycles, and no one can deny that the epicenter of football is here.
-Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal made it through in Europe, but Manchester City won the Premier League. Which is the best team?
-The best team in England is Manchester City. Why? Because it is the team that got more points in the whole 10-month competition. So I believe they deserve to be called the best English team at the moment. Knock-out competitions, where fortune and circumstances often weigh, are a different case. I'm not trying to discredit Europe League or Champions League next winners, but these tournaments are subject to certain conditions and that doesn't necessarily determine which team is the best. From my point of view, in championships like FA Cup, EFL and even in Champions League, which of course are hard to win, the winner is not always the best team. Even if I got the Champions, which is more relevant than the Premier League, I would still say that the City are the best English team, because they have been able to show they are the best, as they got more points than any other club along 10 months. The best team is the one who wins the Premier League. The Europe League, Champions League and other cups depend on a set of factors that can cast doubts even on champions. That is why I respect the league champion most than any other team.
[R][R] @Argentina legend Mario Kempes visited training today to meet Mauricio! #UCLfinal [R] #COYS pic.twitter.com/JJCLX0yJMA&- Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) 28 de mayo de 2019
-Have you been a fan of Leeds because of your relationship of trust with Marcelo Bielsa?
-Sometimes you become a fan of people. I am a fan of Vélez Sarsfield [Argentina] because its coach is Gabriel Heinze, and I say to myself 'I wish Vélez wins', and also 'I wish Leeds wins'. And that is how you follow a lot of people around the world, and as a result, a lot of clubs. The truth is that I enjoyed and suffered the season made by Leeds. I believe the team had an unfair ending, as it deserved being promoted after an extraordinary season. I was left with a feeling of pity and grief, but as Marcelo [Bielsa] was confirmed as coach, he will surely have another chance. I would have loved to play against him: Tottenham vs Leeds in Premier League, as it already happened when I was in Espanyol and he was in Bilbao. It was a dream, and it would have been another dream to play against him in England.
-Could that happen in the 2020/21 season?
-Yes, but we will have to wait one more year, and you never know what can happen in football. It would have been nice to see that match next season.
-Do you mean you might no longer be in England at that time? If you win the Champions League, offers will pour in.
-No, no. We will have enough time to discuss about it after the Champions, but Tottenham is a club that has a great potential and I have a contract until 2024. And if we win the Champions, the club will climb another step and will reach a level that will be great for the future of the club.
-Tottenham is still a non-elite team?
-It still is a non-elite team. It still has some steps to go, as the priority in the last years has been the construction of the stadium, so team evolution has been left behind. But leaving that apart, our priority has always been winning each match, and in the end, we have gained a privileged position. Being among the top four at the end of the Premier League and getting to the final of the Champions League for the first time in the Tottenham's history is an honor no fan would have ever imagined. Looking forward, I believe Tottenham has an enormous potential to join the best teams in Europe and become a real competitor for major tournaments.
-You broke into tears when you got to the Champions League final in Amsterdam. What where your feelings at that point?
-These two and a half weeks prior to the final have been the best period of my football career. I enjoy every single moment, I almost wish this lasts forever. Players are so willing to train, to focus their attention, to keep their concentration, that you say, "God damn!". I have been organizing regular meetings with the whole group and I tell them: "Guys, if we kept this mentality for 10 months, we would win the Premier League and even more!". Keeping this level of application is a great lesson: if we believe, we can. But you have to believe. And you have to be self-demanding, that is why I tell them: "It not only depends on us who are outside pushing you, but also on you, you also have to have that inner self-discipline that will give you the chance to boost your performance consistently for a long period, not just now".
-And how have you worked your emotional side?
-By employing strategies that show you that the power is within ourselves, so emotional and mental issues are highly important. Our preparation focused on the emotional side, especially because I believe this aspect will play a decisive role in a final like this one. You don't play finals: you win them. You have to be determined and confident, in addition to having a clear match planning. Emotional and mental control is key to play a final. And this match is completely different from any other match you might dispute: it's the most important club match in the world.