Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino feels Chelsea forward Eden Hazard was not right in publicly expressing his preference for Leicester City to win the 2015/16 Premier League title.
Spurs went into the second half of that campaign on the heels of Claudio Ranieri’s men but were unable to overcome The Foxes and saw their hopes of ending a 55-year wait to become English champions evaporate at Stamford Bridge.
How close were Spurs? Five things you need to know…
- Tottenham Hotspur were last champions of England in 1961.
- Before the arrival of Pochettino ahead of the 2014/15 season their best finish was runners-up in 1963.
- Spurs finished third in Pochettino’s first season in charge before mounting a serious title challenge.
- Going into the final three games of the 2015/16 season Spurs were seven points behind Leicester City.
- However, in their 36th game of the season, Spurs drew 2-2 at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea with Eden Hazard stating “we don’t want Tottenham to win the Premier League” before their ill-tempered meeting.
A run of five successive Premier League wins has seen Spurs enter this season’s title race with Pochettino’s men a point ahead of defending champions Manchester City and six behind league leaders Liverpool.
Pochettino, who has only finished below third once as Spurs boss, doesn’t want a repeat of Hazard’s unprofessionalism if his side are to become serious contenders.
Ahead of the showdown between Chelsea and the Lillywhites, on gameweek 36 of the 2015/16 season with Tottenham seven points behind Leicester, the Belgian forward said “we don’t want Tottenham to win the Premier League” which Pochettino has taken issue with.
“No, well, when you make public some emotions or opinions when you are professionals, yes,” he told reporters when asked whether Hazard’s comments annoyed him.
“Because if you are going to play after against this team you cannot say, ‘I prefer Leicester to win the league’. You have to play against Tottenham and Leicester and you are a professional.
“I accept it may be your feeling that you prefer Leicester to Tottenham but to make it public is different. That is what annoyed me and my players and our fans, for sure. But in the end, it’s normal.
“You have your opinion and think maybe it will be Leicester, with less budget and everything, it would be nice for them to win. And it will be a massive history and for the Premier League, it says that all is possible.”
“It was an amazing history, but when you are involved and you give your opinion and after you have to play against Tottenham and Leicester, I think it’s not right,” he added.
“For me, when you are professional, you are professional and some opinions you cannot make public. Because after you create a big problem like what happened at Chelsea, remember? That was more like a battle than a football game.
“Why did that happen? You know very well. That’s why it’s compulsory to behave professionally. We translate a lot of emotion to the people. We are public people.”
A wanted man
Pochettino arrived in English football when Southampton made him their boss in January 2013.
The former Espanyol manager, who was capped 22 times for Argentina during an 18-year playing career, guided The Saints to an eighth place finish – in his first and only full season at St Mary’s Stadium – before answering Daniel Levy’s call.
His first season at Spurs saw them finish in fifth place but he would soon establish the north London side as a top-three club: they would subsequently end 3rd (2015/16), 2nd (2016/17) and 3rd (2017/18).
So far he’s overseen no fewer than 246 matches in charge. Spurs have won 141 of those contests (giving him a 57.3% win ratio) whilst tasting 53 defeats. They’ve registered 478 goals (one every 46 minutes) and conceded 254 goals (or 1.03 per game).
Pochettino’s transformation of Spurs has made him a wanted man. Real Madrid and Manchester United, both looking to recruit a manager in the summer, are two clubs heavily linked but he’s not considering a switch anytime soon.
“In five years here a lot of rumour has happened, I respect a lot the opinion of everyone,” he told reporters following Jose Mourinho’s dismissal as Manchester United boss.
“A lot of rumours happen, but it’s not my business what has happened. I want to deliver my best show at this football club.”