Danny Rose felt the wound open above his left eye and the blood would not stop. The contact had come with the Apoel Nicosia substitute Roland Sallai and it was clear that the Tottenham Hotspur full-back had to come off – at least for a quick patch-up job.
Mauricio Pochettino assessed the situation and decided that “it was not necessary to take a risk”. Rose needed five stitches, there were only 20 minutes to play in what was a dead Champions League rubber and so the manager chose to keep him off and introduce Kyle Walker-Peters.
Rose wanted to stay on, unsurprisingly, but Pochettino did not want to force it. The pair had a conversation on the touchline and Rose then disappeared off towards the dressing room for his treatment. He would reappear to watch the closing stages of Tottenham’s 3-0 win from the bench.
In the age of social media, the incident was swiftly transposed into “Rose has angry words with Pochettino and storms off”.
Rose’s recent history encouraged the leap. Only two weeks ago he admitted he had been “fuming” to have been omitted from the Tottenham squad for the derby at Arsenal, although he added that there was “understanding, at the same time” – given he was not long back from serious injury.
Rose’s broader dissatisfaction with his lot at Tottenham has been well documented – by himself, via his interview in the Sun last August, in which he made it plain that he considered himself to be underpaid at the club. The 27-year-old also said that he wanted to “play up north” before the end of his career. He continues to be linked with a move to Manchester United. And so the Apoel incident was obviously the latest illustration of the simmering tension between him and Pochettino.
Rose snapped at the notion and when Rose wants to make his point, he does not hold back.
“This is getting silly now,” Rose declared. “The manager said it was best I came off and I didn’t want to come off. That was it. I’ve seen already that people are saying we exchanged words. There is no issue between me and the manager. There has never been an issue. And people trying to put stuff in the media is not welcomed.
“For the last three and a half years, four years, the manager has been my biggest fan. He’s given me nothing but love and respect. There is no issue. There never will be an issue. People need to stop this because it’s not welcomed.”
It is entirely possible that Rose can be irked at the chairman Daniel Levy’s relatively tight pay structure at Tottenham and be open to a transfer and not blame Pochettino for the situation. It is clear he owes Pochettino for helping to develop his career and that there is affection and gratitude in the equation.
Only last month Rose reflected on how Pochettino had brought him back from his 10-month injury lay-off by sending him on as a substitute in the 1-1 draw at Real Madrid. “It was a class act on his part,” Rose said. “He didn’t need to bring me on.”
Rose is the kind of guy who says what he thinks and, in the professional world he inhabits, he believes – not unreasonably – that his colleagues ought not be offended by his frankness. Football is not a place for sensitive souls.
Rose is desperate to recover his fitness and he is conscious that he has completed the 90 minutes only twice since January. He also knows that Ben Davies has got ahead of him in the Tottenham pecking order at left-back. Is he happy about that? No. Would he say so? Most likely, yes.
Rose’s straight-talking was evident when he considered Monday’s draw for the Champions League last 16. After taking 16 points from an available 18 to top a section that featured Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, he and his teammates believe that they can be a match for anybody.
“I wouldn’t like Bayern Munich,” Rose said, with a smile; Tottenham could get the German champions or Juventus, among others. “But we don’t fear anybody. We are confident we can beat anybody. The manager would prefer us to have one of the top teams. He relishes those sorts of games. We’ve proved in the group stage this season that we do turn up in these games.
“It’s not easy to go to the Bernabéu and get a point, and maybe we should have won the game. It’s not easy to beat Real Madrid convincingly at home. I hope teams look at those performances and realise Tottenham are a team to be feared.”
Tottenham’s next challenge is to reproduce their Champions League form in the Premier League. They face Stoke City at Wembley on Saturday and are keen to stop a run of four league matches without a win.
“I can tell you that we’ve lost or drawn games recently because we’ve not started the games in the right manner,” Rose said. “When teams are coming here to Wembley, like West Brom, they score early then sit back and make it difficult for us to break them down. There are no excuses. We’ve got more than enough quality in the starting XI to be able to break teams down.”
The Guardian Sport