Mauricio Pochettino Paid the Price of Rocking Todd Boehly’s Boat at Chelsea

Mauricio Pochettino has left Chelsea by mutual consent after one season in charge. Photograph: Dave Shopland/REX/Shutterstock
Mauricio Pochettino has left Chelsea by mutual consent after one season in charge. Photograph: Dave Shopland/REX/Shutterstock
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Mauricio Pochettino Paid the Price of Rocking Todd Boehly’s Boat at Chelsea

Mauricio Pochettino has left Chelsea by mutual consent after one season in charge. Photograph: Dave Shopland/REX/Shutterstock
Mauricio Pochettino has left Chelsea by mutual consent after one season in charge. Photograph: Dave Shopland/REX/Shutterstock

It would have been different if Mauricio Pochettino had been willing to trust Chelsea’s great restructuring is going to work. In the end, the problem for the Argentinian was that he joined a club who do not want a manager who has all the power. It is clear by now that anyone who hopes to last under Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital has to collaborate with the board on everything, be open-minded about constructive criticism and remember not to rock the boat too much when it comes to recruitment.
Unfortunately that was never going to be Pochettino – just as it was never going to be Thomas Tuchel, who lasted seven games before being fired. Pochettino is 52. He is a big, magnetic character and an experienced coach who believes his way is best. He was never going to listen to suggestions that he could ease Chelsea’s injury problems by reviewing and altering his training methods.
Inevitably there will be talk of an amicable split. Tuchel left under a cloud after the collapse of his relationship with Boehly and Clearlake, a private equity fund managed by Behdad Eghbali and José E. Feliciano. Pochettino was better at managing upwards. He is a more amiable figure than Tuchel. That, though, does not mean he did not have strong views about the way to run the club. Pochettino was not afraid of flexing his muscles when he spoke to the media during the second half of the season. He was not shy of making it clear that he wanted more control over signings.
Yet Chelsea, who have spent over £1bn on players since Boehly and Clearlake bought the club from Roman Abramovich two years ago, were not willing to alter their approach to suit the man who carried them to sixth place. Eghbali, whose voice carries most weight, was unsure about Pochettino from the start.
Would anything change his mind? Losing the Carabao Cup final to Liverpool’s kids did not help, nor did the failure to challenge for Champions League qualification. Ultimately, Pochettino could never quite solidify his position. It is hard not to conclude that his great mistake was failing to realise that this was not a club conditioned to serve a manager; if power is being doled out, then it is heading only in the direction of the co-sporting directors, Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley, who is said to be close to Eghbali.
It is Stewart and Winstanley who have implemented Chelsea’s youth-first policy. That Pochettino, who was popular with the players, made it work by making sense of an immature squad has not really registered. It is instructive that the team’s late surge to sixth place was merely seen as evidence that criticism of Stewart and Winstanley was misguided.
Chelsea are determined to modernise. Joe Shields is a popular figure in the recruitment team and Sam Jewell is the latest addition from Brighton. They are scouring the globe and are close to completing a deal for the Palmeiras sensation, Estêvão Willian, for just over €60m. Estêvão, 17, is seen as a future Ballon d’Or winner by good judges. Chelsea’s plan is ambitious. It can look crazy. If it works, though, they could end up with one of the best teams in the world.
So the head coach has to swear allegiance to the recruitment team. Do not rock the boat. Do not make the mistake of thinking that Pochettino going for a “very nice dinner” with Boehly last Friday meant anything. Pochettino wanted experienced signings last year and this summer. He disagrees with plans to sell two of his most important players, Trevoh Chalobah and Conor Gallagher, because of profit and sustainability concerns. He was not really into Chelsea bringing in Brentford’s set-piece coach, Bernardo Cueva.
Admittedly it can be argued that Pochettino is behind the times given how much having a set-piece coach has helped Arsenal. Chelsea want a young, progressive manager who will be comfortable with their structure. They do not want fireworks. Expect them to steer clear of a combustible character such as Roberto De Zerbi. There is strong interest in Ipswich’s impressive 38-year-old manager, Kieran McKenna.
But Chelsea want to be consistent challengers for the title. Young coaches are in vogue, but history suggests that the successful clubs build around the person on the touchline. Arsenal, for instance, cater to Mikel Arteta’s needs. Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten season is not down to their structure; it is because of Xabi Alonso. Sometimes an inspiring, demanding, obsessive, slightly unhinged character is required. Liverpool had that in Jürgen Klopp. Players need to believe. They need a talismanic figure to carry them over the line – particularly when Pep Guardiola is in charge of the team at the top.
Chelsea have a way to go to reach those heights. The worry is that they have created more instability for themselves; perhaps even that they are becoming unmanageable. Graham Potter was gone after less than seven months, Pochettino after less than a year. At this rate, potential hires will wonder if this is the impossible job. McKenna, and others, will need to consider if this is worth the hassle. The rewards are potentially magnificent. There is a chance to take this talented young side and create something special. Alternatively, the payoff could be huge if you aren’t willing to say yes to football’s great disruptors.

- The Guardian Sport



Nadal Reaches First Final Since 2022 French Open

20 July 2024, Sweden, Bastad: Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Croatia's Duje Ajdukovic in the men's singles semi-finals of the Swedish Open. Photo: Steffen Trumpf/dpa
20 July 2024, Sweden, Bastad: Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Croatia's Duje Ajdukovic in the men's singles semi-finals of the Swedish Open. Photo: Steffen Trumpf/dpa
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Nadal Reaches First Final Since 2022 French Open

20 July 2024, Sweden, Bastad: Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Croatia's Duje Ajdukovic in the men's singles semi-finals of the Swedish Open. Photo: Steffen Trumpf/dpa
20 July 2024, Sweden, Bastad: Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Croatia's Duje Ajdukovic in the men's singles semi-finals of the Swedish Open. Photo: Steffen Trumpf/dpa

Rafael Nadal reached his first final since the 2022 French Open by rallying to beat Duje Ajdukovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 Saturday at the clay-court Nordea Open.
After needing four hours to beat the 36th-ranked Mariano Navone in Friday's quarterfinals, Nadal had a slow start against Ajdukovic and was a break down in the second set before turning things around, The Associated Press reported.
“My opponent had one of the best backhands that I played against,” Nadal said. “It was very, very difficult, honestly, but I found a way to survive and be through to that final after a long time without being in a final. So that’s great news and I’m very happy with that.”
Nadal will play Nuno Borges, who beat Thiago Agustin Tirante 6-3, 6-4 to reach his first tour-level final.
Nadal is playing at the tournament in Sweden for the first time since he won the title as a 19-year-old in 2005 as he prepares for the Olympic tournament on clay at Roland Garros in Paris.
The 38-year-old Nadal skipped Wimbledon as he didn’t want to switch surface to grass and then back to clay and risk injury. He has been dealing with hip and abdominal injuries over the past 1 1/2 years.