Dele Alli handed a welcome gift to the media on Monday night when, during England’s victory over Slovakia, he was caught on camera swearing with the use of his middle finger.
It was just the thing to help fill air-time and column inches in the barren space between the latest instalment of the Three Lions’ uninspiring trudge towards the World Cup finals and the resumption of the Premier League.
Who was the intended target of Alli’s gesture? Was it the referee? Alli insists it was Kyle Walker. Camera angles were presented and analysed.
Granted, it was not a clever thing to do and the concern remains that Alli has a history of reacting rashly on the field when his frustrations get the better of him.
He has already received two bans in Tottenham colours, first for punching Claudio Yacob in April 2016 and then for a horrible tackle on Gent’s Brecht Dejaegere in February of this year.
Yet Monday’s incident hardly belongs in the same category as those infractions and Walker made light of it on Tuesday, tweeting a clip from a Mr Bean film in which the clueless Rowan Atkinson character believes the middle-fingered salute to be a friendly sign and gleefully reproduces the action towards every stranger he sees.
Pochettino has clearly seen that video, and is approaching the latest discussions around Alli’s conduct with equal seriousness.
“Maybe the headlines are because it’s Dele and something happens – and he’s English,” he said. “But I think it’s not a big issue. For me, it’s about moving on and not creating important things about this. He was joking.
“Look at Mr Bean. That is a bad example! All the people laugh about that, and Dele was joking with Kyle Walker. Come on. We need to censor Mr Bean, no?”.
Pochettino believes Alli and his peers are a little unfortunate to be playing at a time when every gesture is captured on film – and the Argentinian admits he himself might have been caught committing worse sins had he been subjected to the same scrutiny.
“This is the era today in football – a lot of cameras,” said Spurs’ manager. “In my period, it was one in the middle and two more behinds the goals.
“I remember one day when I was playing for Newell’s Old Boys, a striker spat at me and it went all in my mouth. Not one camera saw that. After that, I killed him.
“My reaction was [to throw a punch] and I touched him, but at that moment the ref saw me and I [stopped the punch], so it was not with power.
“The referee said to me ‘little kids will say ‘what are you doing’? What the f**k?’. I said ‘sorry, sorry’. The referee said ‘you and you, yellow cards’.
“I understand that people on TV and in the media need to express themselves and they need to say their opinions. I respect every single opinion but, from my point of view, there is nothing wrong from Dele. I am so happy with him. His behaviour is improving a lot.”
Pochettino will also hope to see an improvement from his new signing Serge Aurier, who aimed homophobic insults at manager Laurent Blanc and Zlatan Ibrahimovic while at Paris Saint-Germain, and was also convicted of assaulting a police officer.
Pochettino stated earlier on Thursday that he is giving Aurier a fresh start and that the Ivory Coast international is starting a “new chapter” in north London.
But when he was reminded of Aurier’s comments about Blanc and Ibrahimovic, Spurs’ manager suggested he has made it abundantly clear to the 24-year-old how he would react to any repeat: “I said to him ‘I will kill you’. I would headbutt him,” said Pochettino.
Like Aurier, the Tottenham boss played for PSG in the French capital – but he felt no need to ask for any opinions on the right-back before signing him, choosing instead to trust his own judgement when he spoke to the player face to face.
“Always I try to feel what the player translates to you when you have a conversation and you meet,” said Pochettino. “It’s more important, the feeling that you get from people.
“I had a long chat with him and I explained how we are, how I am, what I expect from him, and the commitment from him – but not only from him, it’s the same conversation that we have with all the players before signing.
“We are so clear, and then the confusion can arrive after, because some people forget what we spoke about after a year. We are so clear and we try not to change in our position.
“With Serge Aurier we were clear, and then if some issues happen in the future, we will see. But I trust in him and he needs to show we can trust him, from today.”
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