Six years ago last month Mauricio Pochettino and his assistant Jesus Perez were spotted having lunch with Sir Alex Ferguson at Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair.
It was an informal meeting between Manchester United’s most decorated manager, a club ambassador, and the then Tottenham boss.
The pair played down the optics, despite doubts over the future of outgoing United manager Louis van Gaal. It was a footballing relationship that never materialized.
Ferguson and Pochettino got to know each other while attending League Managers Association dinners and have spoken publicly of their mutual respect and admiration as the game’s top managers and coaches.
Following his shock departure from Tottenham in November 2019, there was sentiment for his return to football at Paris Saint-Germain in January 2021, as Thomas Tuchel’s successor at the Parc des Princes.
“I am happy and honored to take on this role because the club has always held a special place in my heart,” said Pochettino, who played 95 times for PSG as a player.
“I come back to the club today with great ambition and humility and I look forward to working with some of the most talented players in the world.
“We will also do everything we can to give our team the combative and attacking play identity that Parisian supporters have always loved.”
But it was fulfilling that identity and managing a dressing room brimming with such talent that proved Pochettino’s greatest challenge.
Although he won the 2021 Coupe de France and the 2022 Ligue 1 title, his failure to bring UEFA Champions League glory would be the reason he left the club.
And he left in a 35-word statement.
“Paris Saint-Germain confirms that Mauricio Pochettino has terminated his duties at the club. The club would like to thank Mauricio Pochettino and his staff for their work and wish them the best for the future.”
Pochettino, appointed in January 2021, won the Ligue 1 title in 2021-22 and the Coupe de France in 2020-21 but failed to deliver the Champions League, the only major trophy that has eluded PSG since that Qatar Sports Investment took over in 2011.
He now finds himself at a crossroads with no obvious route as he reflects on his time in Paris.
Analysis: ‘PSG a difficult club to manage’
Sky Sports News reporter Paul Gilmour:
“Mauricio Pochettino will not be at PSG next season. This follows a meeting between Pochettino and the club. The result was pretty much mutual. Everyone agreed that now is the time for Pochettino to move on.
“He won the French title and did it by 15 points. It was the biggest margin in any of the top five leagues, but it’s a very political club, with a lot of high income.
“If you look at the caliber of players you work with at PSG, there have been fewer more exciting collections of footballers assembled at one club in the entire history of the game.
“There can’t be many managers who wouldn’t want the opportunity to work with Mbappe, Messi, Neymar, Verratti and many more.
“If you look at the profile of the coaches who have left PSG in recent years, or who have been considered unsuccessful, all of them have achieved impressive things since their departure.
“It suggests that PSG are a very difficult club to manage. There are a lot of voices vying for influence behind the scenes and whoever replaces Pochettino will have to face that and hope it doesn’t undermine things.
“It’s very difficult for any manager to manage this dressing room, but he will look at the records of managers who have left PSG and who have been successful.
“Carlo Ancelotti and Unai Emery have both enjoyed great success. Thomas Tuchel has won the Champions League, the Club World Cup and individual awards at Chelsea. Although it has been difficult, Pochettino will leave reflecting on those good points.
“The Champions League is the competition Qatari owners dream of, but they have only been to the semi-finals twice in the past 10 years.
How did the former managers cope after PSG?
Carlo Ancelotti – 1x King’s Cup (2014), 2x Champions League (2014, 2022), 1x Super Cup (2014), FIFA Club World Cup (2014), 1x Bundesliga (2017), 1x La Liga (2022)
Unai Emery – 1x Europa League finalist (2019), 1x Europa League (2021), 1x Champions League semi-finalist (2022)
Thomas Tuchel – 1x Champions League (2021), 1x Super Cup (2021), 1x UEFA Men’s Coach of the Year (2021), 1x FIFA Best Football Manager (2021), 1x FIFA Club World Cup FIFA (2021)
Will Pochettino return to the Premier League?
Sky Sports News reporter Paul Gilmour:
“I think that would be his preferred destination. Pochettino has made no secret of the fact that he wants to return to the Premier League in the future.
“He had talks with Manchester United, who decided to go another route and appoint Erik ten Hag, but Pochettino certainly has his eye on Premier League football again.
“There are no obvious vacancies at the moment, but it is a league that means a lot to him. Football can be unpredictable and we are just waiting to see what happens there. From what ‘we’re told, he’s not actively watching at the moment but just focused on finalizing his departure from PSG.
Pochettino’s departure to PSG “without surprise”
French football expert Tom Williams speaking on Sky Sports News about Pochettino’s exit from PSG:
“It’s no surprise. It’s been going on for months. You can even go back to last summer; there were approaches to Pochettino from Tottenham for a return to north London.
“We knew he wasn’t entirely happy at PSG. He wasn’t entirely happy in Paris. He lived in a hotel for a long time, which didn’t help matters.
“During this season, even with PSG heading for the Ligue 1 title, things haven’t gone well.
“Things didn’t click, the football was abysmal. The feeling was for a long time that Pochettino wasn’t going to continue beyond this summer.
“The fact that we seem to be at the point of his departure now will come as no surprise to anyone.”
Who will replace Pochettino?
Christophe Galtier is set to replace Pochettino, with club president Nasser al-Khelaifi saying last month they were in talks with Nice, who also moved quickly to appoint former Borussia Dortmund manager Lucien Favre.
Zinedine Zidane had been the name in the frame for quite some time. What has changed, however, is that Luis Campos has become the football adviser to replace Leonardo. We had to do things differently.
They want to regain an identity and there have been occasional fan protests in Paris this season. They clearly want to reestablish that connection and that’s why Galtier is a name that has entered the frame.
Jose Mourinho has also been mentioned, but he’s happy at Roma.