Mauricio Pochettino has revealed he did not know how he was going to be able to address his Tottenham players when it looked like they were heading out of the Champions League.
Spurs thought their European adventure was over when Raheem Sterling scored deep into injury time of their dramatic quarter-final second leg at the Etihad Stadium, only for the Video Assistant Referee to hand them a reprieve.
Sterling netted to send City 5-4 ahead on aggregate, but VAR showed that Sergio Aguero was offside.
The turnaround in emotions was an unbelievable sight as Tottenham players that were on the floor crestfallen were suddenly punching the air, while City, who celebrated as wildly as they did when Aguero won them the Premier League in 2012, were in despair.
But during the minute or so that Spurs were going out, Pochettino said he plummeted to new depths, questioning Christian Eriksen’s decision not to play the ball forward in the build-up to the goal and wondering what he could say to his players.
“It was a moment where I threw my jacket, threw my jumper and I went to sit next to Jesus (Perez) and Miguel (D’Agostino) and Toni (Jimenez),” he said.
“It was a few seconds like this (hands on head). It was so fast. There were a lot of bad feelings and bad ideas.
“In that moment, yes of course, it was the lowest moment of my career. Yes. Massive. It was going to be a massive situation emotionally. We for sure would have been very down.
“In that moment you start to think, ‘Why?’. The action where Christian played back. I was thinking, ‘Why not play forwards?’.
“I was reviewing the action, the decision, how I was going to face the players, the fans, you … all these things happened so quickly in my mind.
“It’s amazing. When you are so down and then something you do not expect happens. It’s amazing how quick things happen in your mind, different emotions and ideas.”
Spurs’ celebrations at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday were fitting with creating history, having reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time, as raucous partying on the pitch was followed by even more jubilant scenes in the dressing room.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) April 18, 2019
Video footage has emerged on social media of Pochettino in the thick of the action after the game, not that he is happy it has come out.
“I hope that no one put a video on social media! Because I saw a video that someone recorded celebrating in the dressing room,” he said.
“I hope this is not on social media. I hope that this is private.
“We were very happy, we celebrated. It was normal. It was a fantastic moment and we were all together, massive happiness sharing all together.
“It was a big achievement. We realised there in the dressing room that it was a fantastic achievement for us, for the club. And we were so happy.”
Tottenham’s impressive progression under Pochettino has always been tempered by their inability so far to back it up with trophies, despite a string of final and semi-final appearances.
The last four of the Champions League is new territory for the club, though they matched the run in the European Cup in the early 1960s, but Pochettino does not see it as a landmark moment.
“I don’t believe that,” he said. “It was amazing to achieve that, but there is still a lot of work to do for the club if we want to be in the level that we dream to be at.
“But of course in the way that we are it is the way to build your reputation, you build towards being one day at the level that you want.
“And of course now I am so happy but you can put it in the same emotional level if you win the Champions League or you win the Premier League. We are going to be in the semi-final.
“It was fantastic to make history, to arrive for the first time since 1962 in the semi-final again, in a different era of course now.”