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MARTIN SAMUEL: England going for Mauricio Pochettino would be CHEATING

Mauricio Pochettino’s timing has never been the best. 

He always seems to be under contract when Manchester United come calling, available when Aston Villa have a vacancy, so it’s perhaps no surprise that he should choose the eve of a World Cup to announce his interest in the England job.

Gareth Southgate may not thank him for that. What is undeniable, however, is that he has plenty of other reasons to thank him; as does English football.

Pochettino has produced more players for England than any other manager currently working. It stands at 12, including four in the current squad.

Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw and Eric Dier were coached by Pochettino when they played their first England games, and he can hardly be responsible for the negative career trajectories of Dele Alli or Harry Winks, who were once imagined to be on course to reach a peak for Qatar 2022.

Does this legacy make Pochettino an honorary Englishman, however? The answer is no. 

Pochettino has been out of work since being sacked by PSG

Southgate is aiming to guide England to World Cup glory in Qatar

Mauricio Pochettino (left) admitted he is open to becoming England manager in the future

Pochettino's revelation comes just four days before England's opening game at the World Cup

Pochettino’s revelation comes just four days before England’s opening game at the World Cup

Yes, he’d potentially be a great manager for England. So would Thomas Tuchel, also believed to have expressed interest privately, so would Pep Guardiola, who yearns for an opportunity in international management but couldn’t work for his native Spain, given his support for Catalan nationalism.

Pochettino, Tuchel, Guardiola – most clubs would kill for those options, and maybe a few federations, too. But that’s the problem. England isn’t a club. It’s a national team with all the significance this imparts. And international football is supposed to be the best of yours, versus the best of theirs. And that includes managers. Anything else is cheating, certainly for a country like England, boasting the world’s wealthiest league.

What does it say if the home of the Premier League cannot find a single domestic coach worthy of the role as national figurehead? 

To go for the available marquee name is the easy option. As Southgate has shown, there are coaches here capable of being trusted.

Harry Kane (left) and Eric Dier (right) were both coached by Pochettino at Tottenham

Harry Kane (left) and Eric Dier (right) were both coached by Pochettino at Tottenham

Pochettino, like Tuchel and Guardiola, is different because he at least demonstrated a desire to work in the English game. He was six years in England with Southampton and Tottenham.

The Football Association’s previous selections from abroad, Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello, had never spent a minute in English football before taking over the national team.

Yet even Arsene Wenger, the ultimate honorary Englishman, always resisted the FA’s overtures. If he was going to manage a national team, he insisted, it would be France. 

Club coaches can be guns for hire. National coaches must share the emotions of the people. Southgate won hearts and minds, he united, he got it, because he got us. For the same reason, Brazil, Germany and Italy have never had a foreign coach. 

Tuchel is said to have privately expressed interest in the England job

Guardiola has always suggested he would relish an international management job

Coaches like Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel (left, while at Chelsea) and Pep Guardiola (right) would be dream choices for club teams but national bosses should share emotions of the fans

Those who criticised Eriksson’s appointment were denounced as xenophobes, but there is nothing xenophobic in believing that if international sport is to have any relevance it must be different from the club game and true to its roots.

Pochettino visited Wembley for England’s recent match with Germany. Friends say he just fancied taking in a match and nothing more should be inferred. That protest can be taken with a pinch of salt, not least because his statement this week was emphatic. He spoke of having a good relationship with England and of his role in developing players.

He has every right to be proud. ‘You never know what happens,’ he said. ‘I am open to everything.’ Maybe the FA would be too, given the complications around the best English options, Eddie Howe and Graham Potter, having recently taken on significant club roles.

Yet that doesn’t change Pochettino’s heritage, or his nationality. This time, his timing may actually be perfect. For all his gifts, however, it’s just the man himself that’s wrong.

Pochettino cannot change his heritage, meaning he may just be the wrong man for England

Pochettino cannot change his heritage, meaning he may just be the wrong man for England

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