Mauricio Pochettino has delivered a withering put-down to Xavi after the former Barcelona captain claimed that Manchester City want to sign Dele Alli, saying he knows not to trust the World Cup winner after he dived to win a decisive penalty against the Tottenham manager’s former team, Espanyol.
The Spaniard said on Tuesday he speaks regularly to City manager Pep Guardiola and believes his former team-mate and coach is planning a world-record bid for Alli.
That has been completely rejected by Tottenham manager Pochettino, who instead claimed the comments were motivated by the desire to unsettle him due to the city rivalry between Barcelona and Espanyol.
And the 45 year old says he has not trusted Xavi since he collapsed under a challenge from Raul Baena to win a penalty that Zlatan Ibrahimovic converted to give Barcelona a 1-0 victory over Espanyol at the Nou Camp in December 2009. Pochettino was the Espanyol manager at the time and he claimed to have joked about the decision with Thierry Henry - who was also playing - on Monday, shortly before Xavi’s claims about Alli came to light.
“He’s in a period when he loves to talk, he’s in Doha [playing for Al Sadd] and listen, he was Barcelona player, he’s my enemy,” said Pochettino of Xavi ahead of his side’s trip to Crystal Palace on Wednesday night. “He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona - player, fans, you know.
“I know him [Xavi] very well, I played against him a lot and when I was a manager [at Espanyol].
“Yesterday there was Thierry [Henry] here and we remembered the game that he cheated the referee. He fell down, it wasn’t a penalty, but Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game.
“The marking man was Raul Baena, Xavi fell down and said ‘penalty’, they gave a penalty.
"After, in the video, it was very funny because no one touched him and everyone in the media was saying no, no trust me - it was a penalty. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.
“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”
Pochettino was laughing as he recalled Xavi’s theatrics but he followed up with a serious point - that Tottenham will not sell a single player they don’t want to this summer.
Alli is one of a number of Spurs players linked with a move, with Kyle Walker having talks with Pochettino last week over his future while Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen are among those coveted by other clubs.
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Pochettino admits that is natural as Tottenham continue to impress but is adamant chairman Daniel Levy will not be forced into selling any of his stars.
“I think because we are doing good things, the clubs with a lot of potential are focused on our players, on our talented players,’ he added.
“The players that we want to keep, we will keep. Because he [Levy] said to me: ‘We don’t need money.’ If we sell some players it is because we want to sell some players.
“We will sell players because of the players we want to sign. For our fans, it is so clear that all the decisions we take are for the reason to try to improve the team, try to be more competitive next season.”
Meanwhile, Tottenham have confirmed the club has hired an external firm to provide counselling for those who request it following the death last week of the club’s Under-23 coach Ugo Ehiogu of a heart attack at the training ground. It is thought the initiative is aimed more towards the young players who worked with Ehiogu rather than members of the first team.