Mauricio Pochettino was at Wembley for England’s final World Cup warm-up draw with Germany while debate rages over the future of manager Gareth Southgate.
Telegraph Sport understands that Pochettino was not invited to Wembley, by the Football Association or anybody else, and did not attend with the intention of making any sort of play for Southgate’s job.
Pochettino sat with his assistant Jesus Perez and a friend after deciding to watch England while he is in London, just as he has watched Premier League games and matches overseas while he has been out of work without being spotted.
Having been sacked by Paris St-Germain in the summer, Pochettino has been splitting much of his time between England and Barcelona, and taking in as many live games as possible while contemplating his next move.
Pochettino’s presence at Wembley will no doubt intensify debate over whether or not the Argentine should be considered as a potential successor to Southgate, should the 52-year-old leave his post after the World Cup.
While there is currently no prospect of the FA sacking him, even if England flop at the World Cup, there is a growing feeling that Southgate will decide to step down after Qatar – no matter how well his team do.
Were that to happen, then the FA would ideally look to replace Southgate with another English coach but a lack of realistic candidates could force them to consider the likes of Northern Irishman Brendan Rodgers and Pochettino, who have close links to the country.
Graham Potter had been viewed as a potential successor to Southgate before he joined Chelsea, while Eddie Howe is happy at Newcastle United. Pochettino is currently third-favourite behind the two Englishmen and ahead of Nottingham Forest’s Steve Cooper, the Welshman who managed England’s Under-16s and U17s, with most bookies.
The FA’s technical director, John McDermott, who would be responsible for picking the next England manager, worked closely with Pochettino at Tottenham and the 50-year-old is already well known to some of the country’s top players including captain Harry Kane, Kyle Walker and Eric Dier.
Pochettino, who has already been linked with a host of clubs including Aston Villa, has given no signal that he would be interested in taking the England job, with the former defender thought to want the right project and reluctant to take on a fire-fighting position – which would rule out Leicester City.
Other than the nationality of the next England manager, the FA would also have to consider candidates who could fit into their budget with the association unable to pay the kind of wages many of the world’s top coaches can earn in the Premier League or abroad.
Southgate’s current contract, which he signed last November and runs to the summer of 2024, is believed to be worth in the region of £5 million-a-year.