May 21, 2024

This summer, Daniel Levy executed a brilliant move with a little assistance from Postecoglou’s agent.

Football chairmen fall into two categories: those who leave a lasting legacy and those who are best known for the managers they select.

The first group includes Jim Willmer, a nonentity who was convinced to appoint Brian Clough despite his prediction that the Nottingham Forest he chaired would “live to regret.”

The picture of him introducing Clough to the City Ground and starting the walk on the water would always be with him.

Given some of his decisions, it’s perhaps for the best that Daniel Levy would prefer to be known for the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, arguably the best football stadium in Europe, rather than for his appointments.

When Chelsea calls on Monday night, he will see the decision that faced him in the summer when he looks down from the directors’ box at the technical area.

On the one side will be Ange Postecoglou, the man to whom he did entrust Tottenham Hotspur and who with Harry Kane sold to Bayern Munich has taken them to the top of the Premier League.

On the other stands Mauricio Pochettino, who managed Tottenham when the stadium opened, took them to their only European Cup final and who was expected to return in the summer.

Pochettino would have been the safe bet. The reasons for his dismissal in November 2019, five months after the Champions League final, were convoluted.

Levy did not much like Pochettino’s book about managing Spurs, Brave New World, and he did not like his manager encouraging links to jobs at Manchester United and Real Madrid.

But compared to the toxicity of Jose Mourinho’s regime and the chaos left behind by Antonio Conte, it was nothing irreparable.

Yet while Pochettino’s friends at Tottenham were told he was prepared to come back this summer, there was no direct approach.

Levy did not pick up the phone, perhaps because he felt managerial comebacks rarely work.

There was a feeling at Spurs, as they looked back on the wreckage of Mourinho and Conte’s reigns, that the next managerial appointment should represent a step up for whoever was chosen.

That they should be challenged and stretched and not regard Spurs as just another club that could afford their salaries. Tottenham had been a step up for Pochettino when he arrived from Southampton in 2014 but after the gilded surrounds of Paris Saint-Germain it would not be now. Despite the trophies won at Celtic and the passion of the Parkhead crowd, it would have been for Postecoglou.

One of the aspects of Conte’s management was the enormous backroom staff, from recruitment specialists to dead-ball coaches, who cluttered the training ground at Enfield. If you hire Pochettino, you will get “Team Poch”, centred on Jesus Perez, his assistant, Miguel D’Agostino, his first-team coach, Toni Jimenez, his goalkeeping coach, and his elder son, Sebastiano, a qualified sports scientist.

Tottenham wanted their own coaches, especially Ryan Mason who has twice taken over the first team after the sackings of Mourinho and Conte, to be given room to breathe. Postecoglou was prepared to travel light and, largely, work with what was already at the club.

Postecoglou’s agent, Frank Trimboli, had been pushing his client to Levy for some time. As Son Heung-min’s representative, Trimboli already had a relationship with the Tottenham hierarchy, which was to prove important.

There was never really a race between Postecoglou and Pochettino to become Spurs manager. Had the talks gone badly, Levy may have turned to Pochettino and there is little doubt he would have been warmly welcomed back.

However, Tottenham wanted a fresh voice and although trophies won at Celtic come with a caveat, Postecoglou could also be portrayed as a winner of the kind of silverware Tottenham, with a total of two League Cups since 1991, crave. But then so, more obviously, was Mourinho and so was Conte and neither was an upgrade on Pochettino. Both, incidentally, started well.

The Tottenham chairman should not be unduly self-congratulatory as he looks down on Monday night. In the summer when Levy made his choice, the front cover of a Manchester United fanzine appeared with the club’s manager portrayed as Lenin launching the Russian Revolution at St Petersburg’s Finland Station.

The headline was “All Power to Ten Hag”. As Levy and every manager he has ever appointed know, headlines change.

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