Pochettino: It's difficult to keep transfers secret

Danny Rose nearing return while Mauricio Pochettino confident Spurs can keep Dele Alli and Harry Kane
Danny Rose nearing return while Mauricio Pochettino confident Spurs can keep Dele Alli and Harry Kane

Liverpool and Chelsea have already brought in new faces this month, while the Manchester clubs are battling for the signature of Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, but all remains quiet at Tottenham – and there is every chance it will stay that way.

“To be honest, I don’t expect [signings],” said Mauricio Pochettino. “I don’t want to create expectation. If you remember last summer I said ‘we are going to sign three players’ and it happened in the end. But now I don’t want to create expectation.”

That is hardly a surprise as Tottenham are traditionally loath to recruit in January. Dele Alli was the last player to join Spurs in the winter window, back in 2015, and even then he was loaned straight back to MK Dons.

The Lilywhites could perhaps make a similar move this time, snapping up a young prospect with a view to next season and the future, but they have generally avoided adding to their squad halfway through the campaign under Pochettino.

As the Argentinian has stated on a number of occasions recently, it can take a few months for new players to adapt to their surroundings, which can limit their immediate impact in the second half of the season.

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Value is hard to find too. For one thing, clubs prefer not to sell prized assets midway through the season, which pushes the price up. And, as Pochettino knows all too well, the selling team and the player’s agent have little incentive to keep a prospective deal quiet.

Instead, they have every reason to leak information and spark a bidding war which can result in a higher transfer fee and wages. When Spurs are battling richer rivals, that issue can be problematic.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to keep secrets,” said the Tottenham manager. “Sometimes you [media] know before myself the players that we’re going to sign. It’s true.

“That makes our job difficult, at a club like Tottenham. But of course we’re working to try the possibility to sign players now, or today to sign players or make deals for the summer.

“Around the player is a lot of people that look after him. Then there is a lot of interest – and if Tottenham is interested in the player, maybe someone in the environment of the player is going to talk. Maybe if you make some offer, it is used to talk with another club.

“That is the problem – sometimes it’s too difficult to stop all the rumours. I said to Steve [Hitchen, our chief scout] this morning, your job is so difficult, it’s so difficult to work.

“It’s frustrating for the club and of course for myself too because you cannot sign the player that you want. But ok, I’m happy. I assume that this is football and we cannot stop that.”

Spurs were interested in Everton’s Ross Barkley in the summer, but the 24-year-old has just joined Chelsea instead.

It initially seemed the Blues had beaten their London rivals to the midfielder’s signature, but it is now believed Pochettino changed his mind about bringing the player to north London – not that he wants to discuss that situation: “No comment,” said the Spurs boss when questioned on the subject on Friday.

Either way, Barkley’s move means he will not be facing Tottenham on Saturday, as Sam Allardyce’s Toffees visit Wembley.

Ex-Spurs midfielder Aaron Lennon is, however, still in the visitors’ ranks, and he could face the club that he represented for nine and a half years, from 2005 to the start of 2015.

The 30-year-old fell out of favour under Pochettino, but the Spurs manager recalls: “He was always very respectful and professional.

“From the beginning he played. I remember in my first game he was in the starting 11 [against West Ham], and then I trusted a little bit in different players, and then we started to change the style of play and began to use [Erik] Lamela and [Christian] Eriksen more in the position.
“It was about the style of play. Then, like always, when a player is at the club for a long period – he played for nine or 10 years here – the players need a different motivation and challenge.

“Sometimes you want to keep players but the player says ‘no gaffer, I need to change, I need to wear different colours’. Everyone needs that. We are human and the players are human. It’s not about money or playing. They need new motivation and challenges.”

Pochettino believes, however, that Harry Kane could be different in that respect and could remain a one-club man.
“Like I told you, Harry is so special,” said the Argentinian. “It’s not the profile of a typical, talented offensive player – he is special.

“I always say to him ‘you can play like a keeper, a centre-back and midfielder’ because his mentality is what makes him different. That’s why I told you, for me, he can spend his career in one club – like [Francesco] Totti did at Roma.”

Lennon can expect a warm reception from the Tottenham faithful at Wembley, given his long service to the club – and Pochettino feels the winger has made an important contribution in another respect too.

Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act in May after suffering from a stress-related illness, but has battled back and made 18 appearances for Everton this season.

On New Year’s Eve he posted a message on Twitter thanking those who had helped and supported him in 2017, adding: “Anyone needing help or not feeling right, there’s so much help out there; you are not alone. Please seek this help and believe the tough times are not forever.”

Pochettino said: “Always when a public person like Aaron is talking so openly to the media, fans and people, it is always very helpful for many people around the world, who we don’t know, who might have the same problem.

“The fact Aaron spoke publicly about the issue can inspire people around the world, through him or through his behaviour, to get some help.

“It’s not only [an issue] in football, it’s in general society. But not everybody is strong enough to talk publicly about their own situation.”

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