LONDON (Reuters) - Mauricio Pochettino is the perfect manager to help Tottenham Hotspur balance paying for a new stadium with challenging for the Premier League title over the next few seasons, according to former club captain Gary Mabbutt.
The north London club, who continue their quest for a second successive top-four finish at home to Stoke City on Sunday, hope to move into their new 61,000-seater home in 2018-19.
While that stadium will rival any in England, some fear that the cost, expected to rise way past the initial estimate of 400 million pounds ($500 million), will inevitably lead to a tightening of the purse strings when it comes to new signings.
That, according to Mabbutt, is where Pochettino will be key.
“With a project of this size you worry about the impact it will have on the playing squad,” Mabbutt, who made more than 600 appearances for Tottenham over 16 years, told Reuters.
”That’s why the chairman’s decision to bring in Pochettino was a stroke of genius.
”Some were surprised at the time but he is globally renowned for working with young players, developing youngsters with high potential and creating his own blueprint. He did it with Espanyol in Spain and then at Southampton here.
”Just look at Tottenham’s team. It’s the youngest in the Premier League and the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Danny Rose and Harry Winks are still improving.
“The foundations are in place, on and off the pitch.”
Pochettino is nominated in the best manager category at the London Football Awards, in which Mabbutt is a panellist, while left back Rose, midfielder Alli and French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris are shortlisted in recognition of their contributions to Tottenham’s rise.
Kane is not nominated, despite becoming the first Englishman for 16 years to win the Premier League Golden Boot award last season when his 25 goals helped Tottenham push Leicester City all the way in the title race.
The 23-year-old Kane, who scored a hat-trick in the FA Cup against Fulham last weekend to take this season’s tally to 19, is one of the most complete strikers to emerge in the past three decades, former defender Mabbutt says.
“When I was preparing for a game I used to look at the opposition strikers and work out their strengths and weaknesses were,” he said.
”With Harry it’s difficult to find any weaknesses. You can’t really define him as a six-yard box poacher, a penalty area striker or a player who likes to drop off and link play.
“He has so many attributes... He doesn’t have the lightning pace perhaps, but he’s deceptively fast and thinks quickly.”
Tottenham’s 2-0 defeat at Liverpool in their last league outing left them third in the table and while Mabbutt says the title is “Chelsea’s to lose” he believes Tottenham are capable of putting in a strong finish to the season.
“The Cup win at Fulham last weekend was important after a couple of poor performances,” Mabbutt, 55, said.
”Now it’s important they back that up against Stoke. But whereas in the past maybe Tottenham were perceived as fragile, I think under Pochettino they have grown so much in stature.
”If you’re a Spurs fan the pleasing thing is that having been the only team to push Leicester last season, they have followed that up when some thought they might have a dip...
“There is no reason they can’t win a trophy this season.”
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Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by John Stonestreet