'Genius' Mousa Dembele to join the greats in Mauricio Pochettino's memoirs

Matt Law
Pochettino regrets not having managed Dembele earlier in his career - Getty Images Europe

Mauricio Pochettino has already got a chapter of his memoirs prepared in his head that will include Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho, Jay-Jay Okocha, Ivan De La Pena and Mousa Dembele.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Pochettino rates Dembele as a “genius” and has earmarked a place for the Belgian in the book he one day plans to write alongside the other players he feels privileged to have worked with.

Statistics were this week released that showed Dembele to be the best dribbler in the Premier League, ahead of Eden Hazard, but Pochettino rates him even higher than that.

The only regret the Argentine has is that he did not work with Dembele earlier in his career because he believes he could have made the 29-year-old one of the best players in the world.

“I always say ‘Mousa, in my book, you will be one of my genius players that I have been lucky to meet’,” said Pochettino. “One was Maradona, Ronaldinho, Okocha and De La Pena. He was a genius too and Mousa Dembele.

Pochettino rates Dembele among the best players he has worked with Credit: getty images

“We always tell him that ‘if we had taken you at eighteen or nineteen years old, you would have become one of the best players in the world’. I would have loved to have taken him on at 18.”

Pochettino does not credit himself for bringing out the best in Dembele, but instead believes the work of his highly-rated assistant Jesus Perez and the Tottenham physios has transformed the former Fulham midfielder.

“Mousa Dembele is completely different to two-and-a-half years ago when we arrived here,” said Pochettino. “He didn't play too much in his first season, he always had problems, or physical problems.

“I must give all credit to these guys (points at Jesus Perez), sports science, all the medical staff to create now a Mousa Dembele that is strong and can play. I think that every week if you are honest, you would agree with me.

Dembele has superior dribbling statistics to Eden Hazard Credit: Rex Features

“Mousa has started to work very hard. We provide individual plans to every player. I think we are very happy.”

Dembele and his Tottenham team-mates face a physical battle when they travel to Burnley on Saturday, but Pochettino’s Spurs fight club should make sure they are prepared.

Pochettino likes to take part in small-sided games in training and encourages his players to go in hard, even though he has come off worse against teenager Cameron Carter-Vickers on more than one occasion.

“I did it today again,” said Pochettino. “I challenged with Cameron and hurt my hand. He crushed everyone in the box.

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“You know I like to fight with the players to show them I am stronger than them, mentally and physically. Sometimes physically I lose the challenge because they are physically stronger, but I am stronger here (points to head).

“The Premier League is a very hard league. You can play all the nice football and tiki-taka, but in the Premier League sometimes you must fight to win. When you play Burnley you must play well with the ball, but when you don’t have it you must be ready to fight.

“I have tried to remind my players that football is not only when you have the ball. Football is also when you do not have the ball too. To fight, to press, to challenge with your opponent. Not wait and be passive.

“We need to be aggressive and proactive and to try to challenge the opponent. That is how we are every single training session playing football, but fighting too.”

While Tottenham are facing Burnley, Erik Lamela, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season, will be undergoing surgery in Barcelona on the hip injury that has ended his season.

“Now I think it’s very difficult situation, very tough for him,” said Pochettino. “He needs our love, our support, and to make sure that all is going well. I hope all is going well on Saturday and then he starts to think about his recovery as soon as possible.”

Tottenham have confirmed that the club have agreed an extension until the end of April to give notice over whether or not they will move into Wembley next season. Spurs had been given until the end of March, but chairman Daniel Levy wants more time to make a final decision.

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