Mourinho Replaces Pochettino: Another Friendly Reminder of the Cruel Sports World
By: Jake Lofgren
A few days ago the sports world was shocked yet again as Mauricio Pochettino was fired by Tottenham, only to be replaced twelve hours later by Jose Mourinho. Just about six months ago we witnessed Pochettino bring Tottenham to their first Champions League Final in the history of their club. Now, Tottenham did not win the final, nor any other competition since Pochettino's arrival, but he did help Tottenham reach new heights as one of the best teams in Europe.
All of that is great, but this season has been a huge struggle so far for Tottenham. They currently sit in 14th place in the Premier League (14 points) where they are currently closer to the relegation zone (8 points) than they are the top four (25 points). They suffered a humiliating defeat at home in their brand new stadium to Bayern Munich (7-2) in the Champions League. Transfer rumors have swirled around the club for a while now about some of their top players in Christen Eriksen, Toby Alderwiereld, and Jan Vertonghen wanting to move on to a bigger club. All of these issues accumulated in such a short period of time apparently overweighted everything Pochettino accomplished at the club since 2014.
This situation reminds me a lot of Claudio Ranieri's sacking back in 2017, nine months after leading Leicester City to an improbable Premier League Title. Ranieri accomplished one of the most inspirational underdog stories in sports when leading a relegation candidate to a Championship while beating preseason odds of 5000/1. After achieving this for the club, one would think that his job would be secure for the next 5-10 years just to honor what he had done. In fact if you asked Leicester fans if they would get the opportunity to win the league, but had to sacrifice getting relegated the next season, they would probably take that offer. Although, with Leicester sitting in 17th and one point above the relegation zone he inevitably lost his job. One certainly could argue that this was the right decision and that the appointment of a new manager did help to keep their status as a Premier League club.
These examples are yet another reminder that sports are a business, and nothing anyone has done in the past secures their future with a franchise. These situations are not unique to only soccer, but coaches and players of all sports have gone through similar experiences. The NBA certainly has its own stories of beloved coaches and players being let go for something that leaves the franchise better off. Dwane Casey was fired after leading the Raptors through a rebuild to becoming the top team in the Eastern Conference. After failing to win a championship, Casey was fired in the same offseason the NBA named him Coach of the Year. Similarly to Ranieri, this decision seems very harsh, but the Raptors went on to become NBA champions just one season later. The cruel business of sports does not care who you are or what you have done, but only cares about what you are currently doing to help the franchise.
But now let's revisit what is currently taking place at Tottenham. Again, Tottenham decided to fire one of the most sought after managerial names in soccer and one of (if not the best) managers in their club's history not even halfway through the season. One could look at this through a positive lens and at least acknowledge that Tottenham are showing some ambition by showing that the current state of the club is not the direction that they want to be heading. While, deciding to hire a legendary manager who has a very well decorated trophy case looks attractive to a club that is desperate to win one soon. The man that they decided to hire was still Jose Mourinho . . . a legendary manager at one of their most hated rivals, Chelsea. Four years ago when he was employed at Chelsea, a reporter asked him if he would ever come to Spurs, to which he responded: "Never. I love the Chelsea fans too much." This decision probably shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to Chelsea fans because he already took the job of a rival when he managed Manchester United, but this one hits a little closer to home. This wouldn't be the first time he's betrayed rivals, early on in his career he managed two fierce rivals in Portugal, as he took on head coaching jobs at both Benfica and Porto.
No matter what team you support, or even if you support any team, this decision just doesn't feel right. Although, I guess that's just the nature of the industry. Surely Pochettino is upset over the way his time at Tottenham has ended, but Mourinho said it best when he was asked about the prospect of being sacked at Chelsea: "If it happens I will be a millionaire and get another club a couple months later." Pochettino can relate with that quote heavily, as I'm sure he will be stepping into a new job sooner rather than later.
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