El Centrocampista

MADRID CALLING FOR MAURICIO? – Pochettino quietly does the business at Espanyol

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One of the more surprising stories to come from the whole  ‘will he or won’t he?’ circus surrounding Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid, has been the suggestion as to who Florentino Perez may want to replace the Portuguese coach, should he depart for pastures new during the summer.

There is still plenty of mileage left in the Mou to Spurs/Chelsea/City/England stories yet of course but it was interesting to note that the man Marca claim Real Madrid’s hierarchy would target should their current coach walk, was none other than Espanyol’s young and relatively inexperienced boss, Mauricio Pochettino.

The 39-year-old Argentine has been quietly impressive at the Catalan club since taking the helm in January 2009 and los periquitos currently sit  within touching distance of what would be a magnificent Champions League qualification spot in fifth spot, level on points with fourth-placed Levante.

You will remember that Pochettino began his new job with Espanyol routed in the relegation zone and subsequently did a admirable job in guiding them away from trouble to an eventual 10th place finish come the end of season.

A slightly disappointing 14th spot last season belied the work the club’s former captain has done behind the scenes and has probably worked in their favour as few predicted they would be riding so high in the league, going into the second week of Fevruary, especially after losing some key players during the summer transfer window.

Unbeaten in La Liga since the start of December, when they fell to a 2-1 reverse against Valencia at the Mestalla, Espanyol are one of the form teams in Spain this year. The only real blot coming when they were eliminated from the Copa del Rey when serial giant-killers, Mirandes grabbed an injury time winner in the second leg at Anduva.

Pochettino’s current contract at the Estadi Corenlla-El Prat  ties him to the Primera Division club until June 2014 but the simple fact he is being mentioned with probably the biggest coaching job in world football is testament to the respect he has already built up in his short time in management.

How much truth are in these stories is debatable, after all the newspaper in question have a little form to say the least, but the fact that they have been taken seriously in some quarters also speaks volumes.

The man himself has dismissed the suggestions that he could be moving to the capital during the summer and said this type of speculation was normal in the game: “There is alway talk and rumour,  I have been involved in football for many years and this is just something you have to live with. As a coach you need to just ignore these sorts of stories so they do not affect team morale and concentration.”

Pochettino also gave a glimpse of the character that makes him so endearing when he told journalists how his children even sleep in Espanyol pyjamas.

Back on the pitch, La Liga’s crisis club Real Zaragoza visit Cornella-El Prat in tomorrow’s early kick-off and Espanyol will be confident they can secure victory against a team that are in free fall at the moment, in the process stretching their impressive unbeaten run in the league to eight games.

Two equally winnable games follow this weekend’s encounter, before Pochettino takes his charges to the Santiago Bernabeu for a date with the current league leaders on 4 March.

Whether the rumour mill will still be linking the Argentine with the coaches job at Real Madrid could very much depend on the outcome of the game in three weeks time.

Watch this space…


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