Mauricio Pochettino (Murphy, Argentina, 1972) attends to The spar from Cadena SER before receiving Real Madrid next Tuesday, in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16, at the Parc des Princes. Diplomatic and restrained, he dodges questions about Mbappé, praises Messi’s genius, hopes that Neymar will be in the game and shows respect for his rival.
Will you have time to watch Espanyol-Barcelona?
It will give me time, why not? For a derby time is taken from anywhere. Is sacred. Football is sacred, no matter what time it is, no matter what game it is, and today, thanks to the means we have, we can watch any game we want from wherever we are. In a restaurant, with the Ipad… It’s incredible, and the passion and obsession that all of us professionals have go beyond anything.
Is the match against Rennes a rehearsal for the duel against Madrid?
What happens is that always, whatever you do, different types of opinions are generated. And in football there is a fundamental premise, and that is that you have to train seriously, you have to take the previous days naturally, not with fear, because when you are not thinking 100% about what you have to do, training and competing in the best way, many more problems can always appear. And it is clear that our obligation is to compete against Rennes in the best way. Taking out a team that gives us the opportunity to win the game, following a good line. Above all, maintaining the spirit and the positive feeling that will give you the opportunity to prepare for a game as important as the one against Real Madrid.
They have presented a white kit. Will they take away even the target from Madrid in the match?
I don’t know, I’m not into that. It is the fourth kit, I have not seen it yet, only in a photo. I will discover it tomorrow.
“Mbappé? Such an important decision does not depend on a game… and he knows what he wants for his future”
We can show it to you, here it is (the Cadena SER envoy shows him a photo of Mbappé in the new kit). Mbappé in white, doesn’t that image hurt you?
I don’t think (laughs). I am in love with the original PSG shirt. When I signed for this club in 2001, one of the things I looked at the most when I was a player was the shirts of the teams that were interested in me. And one of them was PSG, I loved the design and the shield, with the Eiffel Tower. I think it’s one of the most beautiful in football.
Mbappé said that this tie can change many things. Do you believe it too?
I can have my opinion, but I don’t think that such an important decision goes through a game. Or for a playoff. He is an intelligent, mature boy, with a tremendous capacity for analysis and knowing perfectly well what he wants for his future. He has many people around him who are sure to advise him in the best way. I don’t think that’s the case. I see him calm, focused on doing the best possible for PSG. You have to respect him, he will make a decision after the tie.
How is Mbappé in close contact, at close range?
It has been an incredible human discovery, he is a boy with incredible empathy and charisma. Also the language has helped him, he speaks perfectly English and Spanish, and that also gives a little more closeness. At first it was a little more difficult for me to relate through French. That gave us a special closeness, and he has exceptional charisma, he gives off incredible energy. It is fortunate to be able to work with him and with other great players at this time, to meet him in the area where they take off their superhero armor and find a mature boy, despite how young he is and because of the values that govern your daily life.
Are you ready to play for Real Madrid?
Hopefully he spends his entire career at PSG. It would be a very good sign for the club. He is a player who is in the Top-5 in the world, without a doubt.
“I have no doubt that Messi will show his best version against Madrid”
And how does Messi get to the duel?
Leo is a genius, he is something out of the ordinary, he is one of the players who come out every 100 years in football. What he has contributed to the team is incredible, beyond the fact that since he arrived he has not been lucky enough to be benefited by the circumstances. But he always maintained his calm and knowing how to be, he is at his best, at his best moment of maturity, I think he reaches this decisive part of the season at his best moment. I have no doubt that he is going to show the best version of himself.
Messi arrived at PSG with one goal: to win the Champions League.
He wants to compete, it’s in his DNA, he loves to compete and wants to win everything in training, competing, and I have no doubt that he wants to win the Champions League.
Can Neymar make it to the match against Madrid?
Maybe yes, maybe not. His evolution is being fantastic, I see him close to coming back. We will see the next few days, they will be key to knowing if he can be involved in Tuesday’s game. Without a doubt, if he is he should be a starter. His magic is more than evident, when you see him train constantly he generates unexpected situations and he has that magic that everyone knows to be able to transmit them on a field when he is at his best level, especially physically.
“I see Neymar close to returning; if he is, he should be a starter”
Players like Messi, Neymar, Mbappé… Do you have to give them a lot of instructions?
Nothing is easy, for any coach. Many times we talk and laugh because nowadays any player of any team of any level in any category gets angry with the coach or with the teammate when they take them away, they don’t like it. Here we are talking about soccer geniuses, there is no higher level than that of these players. And when you see in each training session the humility they have, the commitment, and that they always try to be at the service of the team, with their individual characteristics, being players who have been around for many years, that makes you happy. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s not as complicated as people who don’t have the knowledge to live this from the inside might think. There are not many coaching staffs that can say they have trained these three players. Many people say: I would do this, I would do that, but there is really no book that says how to manage this. It is something new, something that PSG has created and we have to have the ability to adapt day by day because we are treating the artists of this sport that moves so much passion. If we are able, with the challenge of making it work in the best way, that would be amazing.
Are you very aware of Madrid, whether Benzema arrives or not?
We are always aware of the rival, but we are not obsessive. We think that Madrid, due to its history and that intrinsic strength it has as a club, after winning 13 European Cups, is a rival that must always be respected, regardless of the players on the pitch. Real Madrid is a force superior to any player. But yes, if we talk about Benzema, we are talking about an extraordinary player, one of the best strikers in the world, and logically in attack it is different if Benzema is there or if he is not. But the Madrid squad has players who can replace him.
“Madrid in attack is different if Benzema is there or not”
Is Benzema in that world Top-5 together with Mbappé?
Yes too. But I don’t say any more (laughs).
Would Karim have a place at PSG?
There is a lot to play on the PlayStation, all the great players take place. But balance is the most important thing in football, when you have the ball and when you don’t. And that balance takes time.
How is Pochettino? It has received a lot of criticism…
We have a good relationship with the press, journalists are friendly. The PSG coach is a perfect target for everyone. When I look at Tuchel, Emery, Ancelotti… In the end it’s the weakest part, we always are the coaches, the most easily criticized, the ones who best bear the frustration.
“The PSG coach is a perfect target for everyone…”
But it is that in Paris it seems that no coach likes… Now Zidane sounds.
I don’t know, it’s not up to me to decide. But he is a great coach, he has shown it at Madrid and he can coach any team in the world. Also, he is French. But I don’t know, it would be more of a question for our sports director or our president.
Do these rumors bother you?
No. When Zidane was at Madrid, how many rumors did I see from England… When we take on a club like PSG, we know that everything else comes with the job. And that must be accepted, otherwise we could not be sitting here.
“Ramos? It would be good for him to recover and not relapse anymore”
And you played for Real Madrid at the time. Would you like that to come?
I go step by step, like Cholo. We have to enjoy the moments, we cannot be thinking about what is going to come. We must be focused on what we have now. Football will have us, it will take us wherever it wants. Sometimes there are unpredictable things, they are not in our hands and we accept it that way. We give 100% for the club we are in now. For us, 200% is focused on bringing joy to PSG and the fans, who are waiting for it.
He has been in clubs with medium and long-term projects. Here the results are requested for yesterday. Is it too different, almost a different profession?
Every project lays a foundation from the beginning. Today in football, be it at Espanyol, Southampton, Tottenham or PSG, if you don’t win there’s no time. That romanticism has been lost, except in some clubs. In our case, we have always thought a lot about the day to day, one of the maxims is to think that we are going to be at the club for ten years, but knowing that the present is going to dictate that. If you don’t win, there is no sustenance to last over time. The day to day will give you the possibility of being the next day. The media exposure changes, especially this year in Paris. And that is important, to manage that calmly.
What happens to Ramos?
He has suffered some relapses, when it seemed that he could hook a good period. We will see if she arrives, and if not for the return. He is an important player, he is transmitting his experience to us. He is a boy who lives it with tremendous passion, who always works to the maximum. It would be good for him to have a period to recover, without relapse more. I understand that there are different opinions about him, but with his mentality, I am sure that he will achieve it.
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Pochettino: “Madrid is a force superior to any player”