Neil Humphreys: Give Pochettino a blank cheque
Tottenham coach deserves proper money for the miracle he's done
Vincent Janssen and Fernando Llorente look out of place in the English Premier League. They belong in a marquee with acrobats and jugglers, a couple of clowns getting easy laughs from falling over.
But Mauricio Pochettino got a victory with those two yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Tottenham Hotspur snatched the three points against Brighton and Hove Albion with Janssen and Llorente up front.
Spurs are in the top three with Janssen and Llorente up front.
It's a line worth repeating just to underline the daftness.
The names Janssen and Llorente do not suggest a double act, unless it's a buddy cop movie from the 1980s. And that's a testament to Pochettino's genius, just the latest example of his on-going miracle.
Llorente is 34 and has one foot in retirement. Janssen is only 24, but plays as if both feet are in cement. Neither man scored, but their presence shows the gulf between Spurs and their rivals.
Pochettino deserves better than Janssen and Llorente up front. The Tottenham manager has earned the right to demand a transfer budget that his progress warrants. Or he should look elsewhere.
Real Madrid and Manchester United may no longer be possible destinations, but the Argentinian will not be short of offers, not after Christian Eriksen's strike edged Spurs closer to Champions League qualification.
It's worth reiterating the magnitude of Pochettino's achievement.
The valid, but slightly tired criticism that he hasn't won anything almost misses the point. Or the decimal point that sticks out in Tottenham's balance sheet.
Spurs have spent nothing. Not a single signing came on board in the last two transfer windows, forcing Pochettino to play the likes of Llorente, Janssen and popular forward Son Heung Min up front in Harry Kane's absence.
Last month, club chairman Daniel Levy told the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust that the new stadium's debt had spiralled to £637 million (S$1.12 billion), but promised a decent transfer kitty nonetheless.
He must keep his word. A house is not a home without any decent furniture and the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a bit of a souffle, rising above the North London skyline. It's pretty to look at, but there's not much inside.
And yet, Pochettino has soldiered on, defying every expectation after that mid-season wobble to reach the Champions League semi-finals and consolidate a spot in the top three. It's a staggering recovery.
Even allowing for the fickle fortunes of the average EPL manager, the pendulum had swung so far away from Pochettino before returning that it's almost convenient to forget that he'd been written off in the New Year.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on his extended honeymoon at Manchester United, Zinedine Zidane was the homecoming hero at Real Madrid and Pochettino was dropping points and fast becoming yesterday's news.
But, in the weeks that followed, he kept his own counsel as Spurs quietly overcame one obstacle after another, including the stadium delays and the dramatic loss of Kane. The ride was erratic - Spurs have lost 11 times in the EPL - but the indomitable spirit was absolute.
Juergen Klopp tends to dominate all coverage involving motivational managers and touchline histrionics, but watch the dressing-room footage of Pochettino dancing and screaming after Spurs' Champions League triumph against Manchester City. He was as giddy as the kids around him.
And his players love him for it.
Since moving to their new home, Tottenham have chalked up four wins in four matches in all competitions without conceding a goal.
Two of their final three EPL fixtures are at home. The top four is theirs for the taking.
But Pochettino's progress has been overshadowed by the omnipresent spotlight of the title race and the mercurial antics at Manchester United, which doesn't really matter as long as one man has been paying attention.
Levy can't stretch his manager's patience to breaking point. He can't expect the Argentinian's alchemy to spin gold again next season, not when the Manchester clubs and Liverpool will empty their heftier piggy banks once more.
As it stands, Chelsea, Arsenal and United all boast superior attacking line-ups, deeper squads and bigger spending in previous transfer windows, but they all trail a side who finished off Brighton with Llorente and Janssen in attack.
They all trail Pochettino when it comes to maximising and motivating assets. He has spent less and achieved more. Actually, he has spent nothing and achieved more.
Levy has promised a spending budget, but admitted that a top-four finish would boost the coffers further.
Well, Pochettino is about to hand over a place in the Champions League. It's time for Levy to hand over the chequebook.
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