Tottenham sacking may be liberating for Mauricio Pochettino - Guillem Balague column

Guillem Balague's BBC Sport column

Guillem Balague will be writing a regular column throughout the season and also appearing every Thursday on BBC Radio 5 Live's Football Daily podcast, when the focus will be on European football.

You can download the latest Football Daily podcast here.

I was convinced Mauricio Pochettino was not going to quit Tottenham but his future was not in his hands and, although I cannot understand many of the reasons behind his sacking, it has also felt like the end of the road for a while.

And, in a way, it may feel like a liberation for him and his coaching staff.

Pochettino is a fighter and wanted to continue fighting, but in the end whether he stayed or went was always going to depend on the club. He has paid the price for recent results, results which are the consequence of a decay of the squad predicted by the Argentine 18 months ago.

For more than a year now he has been trying to manage some difficult situations at Spurs, and 18 defeats in 2019 tells you a story which goes beyond what happened this season.

You could see that it would not end well unless things changed properly at the club in the summer - and big time. But they really didn't.

At the heart of it all is the two transfer windows from the end of January 2018 until the summer of 2019 when they did not sign anyone.

Pochettino had warned the club what was happening and chairman Daniel Levy decided it wasn't the time to invest in new players because his priority has been to be in the top four with minimum spend.

Pochettino, who was not asking for more money but quick and clever resolutions in the market, couldn't do the job to the best of his abilities.

It meant a change in the dynamic of the relationship between the two most pivotal men at the club.

When they first met each other and began working together they didn't fully understand each other's ideas of exactly what kind of club they both wanted, but then after a well-documented trip to Argentina there was much more synergy. Levy understood what Pochettino wanted and Pochettino knew the limits he had to work with.

But it got to the point that when the recycling of the squad wasn't forthcoming, that synergy wasn't continued and there was a logical frustration on Pochettino's side.

I wouldn't say the pair are friends as such - there was a professional relationship but it became clear the priorities for both men started being different. A new stadium should mean a more ambitious club, the manager thought. But Levy did not move an inch from the club intentions.

Maybe Pochettino should have left in the summer but that was never going to happen. If Levy did not think there was a way back or out, the only solution was to get rid of him and his coaching staff.

The compensation will be more than the £12m reported, as he and the five members of his coaching staff have more than three years left on their contracts.

Levy was clearly not scared of that and bringing a new leader to a project that cannot compete in the short or medium term with the richest clubs in the country. It obviously does not faze him.

There has been talk of player discontent but I don't think Pochettino lost the dressing room.

He took a couple of steps back from certain situations because in some cases he could not punish or replace players as there was nobody to replace them with.

Daniel Levy (right) & Mauricio Pochettino (left)
Chairman Daniel Levy appointed Mauricio Pochettino as Tottenham manager in May 2014

But the same faces and the same voices do create erosion after a while. To reproduce what Spurs did between 2015 and 2018, the best version of the team, players had to come and go, and the club either did not agree with some movements or could not get rid of players.

Everyone can see that Spurs getting to the Champions League final in June was a miracle, maximising the potential of a side that was already on the decline.

You have heard the likes of Harry Kane asking for more from the players, frustrated because things that had been learned were abandoned.

But things were not happening and performances were not the best, for different reasons.

Some players were attracted to other clubs and distracted, while others had reached their potential and have declined, but are still around. Spurs are not sacking him because the players asked for it or the relationship deteriorated. Nothing of the sort.

This is a board decision based on a professional relationship where, between Pochettino and Levy, there was not much more to say to each other.

It was a divorce that many people can relate to - it gets to the point where what else can you say, how can it improve? You know what you want to do but you're not heard anymore.

Pochettino's next step, I think, will be to rest. This period has been very demanding.

He and his coaching staff know options will open up for them once they return home. He has admirers at Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid.

But one of the things that stopped him going anywhere before now is the fact there was compensation to pay.

Real and Juve have considered him but having to negotiate a price for his services with Levy put them off.

Generally when a sacking happens the club can add a clause in which they stop the manager going to certain teams. In exchange for a big compensation, could Levy add that he doesn't go to Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United?

United did want him when they appointed Jose Mourinho but they are backing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer strongly, so that option seems gone for now.

Like the last day of the best summer, it feels like Spurs have left behind a romance that will be unforgettable, but that could not be taken into autumn.

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