Pedro Porro interview: I did not get to say goodbye to my childhood best friend before he died

Pedro Porro
Pedro Porro has been in superb form for Tottenham despite the pain of losing his best friend - AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Few have benefited from Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham revolution as much as Pedro Porro.

But the Spaniard’s successes on the pitch this season have come against a backdrop of personal strife, which he has revealed to Telegraph Sport for the first time.

The 24-year-old’s childhood best friend, Mohammed Khairat Tamahaj, passed away at the start of last month after a tumour in his kidney spread to his brain.

The pair first met when they were five years old and were inseparable from the off, walking to school together every day and playing together after.

“We met in Don Benito, a town in Badajoz, my home town, where he and his family moved from Morocco in search of a better future,” Porro said.

“The best friendships are those that are born out of spontaneity, and that was our case. We lived nearby, and one day he knocked on my door. He introduced himself, we went to school together and from then on and during those years we were inseparable. We played together all the time: in the schoolyard and in the street.

“Then time separated us. I started to dedicate myself professionally to football and I had to go to Madrid, Girona, Valladolid, Lisbon and now London.”

Mohammed’s family were unable to afford the repatriation cost from Spain back to Morocco so Porro stepped in to cover those fees.

“A short time ago I found out that he was ill. He had a tumour in his kidney that spread to his head and unfortunately everything happened very quickly,” says Porro.

“I did not have time to say goodbye to him. However, I found out that his family, who had returned to Morocco, could not afford the repatriation costs and I offered to help them with whatever was needed. Now I know that he rests in peace with his family.”

Porro’s personal strife away from the pitch does not seem to have impacted performances on it.

Less than a year on from his January deadline day move from Sporting, the outlook for Porro’s future looks very different than it did at the end of last season. Upon arrival in north London, the right-back formed part of a defence in disarray and Porro was quickly labelled another transfer misstep.

Ange Postecoglou hugs Pedro Porro
Porro is one of the Spurs players to have most benefited from Ange Postecoglou's arrival at the club - Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Under Postecoglou, however, Porro’s attacking ability has been harnessed while the defensive side of his game – which he concedes was once a weakness – has vastly improved.

“This tactical system is new in my career because I have never played inside,” Porro explains. “I feel very comfortable in this role although at first it took some getting used to in pre-season. Ange tried to advise me, to make me see how I had to position myself to receive the ball better on the inside.

“It may seem easy but finding the spaces is not. And that also requires a high level of concentration because you can’t forget to defend.

“In the last two years of my career I have improved especially in that defensive order. Before maybe I was a player who was mainly concerned with attacking, but now I have to do more things. And honestly I’m enjoying defending. Attacking is always more fun, but this other ability has given me confidence.”

Porro is determined to continue Spurs’ – and his – improvement after his rocky start.

“I remember the first few weeks I struggled with everything. On my debut I said to myself: ‘These guys are on a motorbike. Either I wake up or they’re going to eat me’,” Porro says.

“I had to do more gym work. Before, I didn’t do anything in the afternoons, just preventive work, but when I arrived in England I had to do double sessions because the pace and intensity of the Premier League is diabolical.”

Postecoglou’s methods have made a difference, too.

“There are sessions in which the emphasis is on the defensive part, others on the offensive, but the common denominator is the ball. We always train with the ball,” explains Porro. “There is a healthy rivalry between team-mates, challenges between each other and an important good feeling to make things work. It wasn’t like that before.”

Kane’s exit was painful for everyone’

The way Tottenham have played despite the loss of Harry Kane has arguably been one of the surprises of the season. Porro would have liked more time playing with the England captain, however.

“Kane’s exit was painful for everyone because he was the heart and soul of the club. I would have liked to have enjoyed Kane more because we didn’t spend much time together.

“He is a special striker, used to scoring goals everywhere. He has not found it difficult to adapt to Bayern. He is undoubtedly one of the best in the world. However, I think we at Tottenham have been able to overcome that absence quickly.

“Maybe there are more authoritative voices now. Son, for example, has taken the baton. Since Kane left, he’s stepped up, he’s taken responsibility and you can feel that inside and outside the dressing room. People usually underestimate him, maybe because he was always in the background, but he’s an out-and-out player.”

Tottenham’s momentum has stalled with defeats by Chelsea, in an epic encounter, Wolves and Aston Villa.

But Porro says the title remains the aim, even if Spurs are by no stretch favourites.

“There is still a long season ahead, but in the dressing room nobody is going to take away the illusion of trying to win the league,” says Porro. “The work we have done so far shows us the path we have to follow.”