In the quest to deliver a trophy, Daniel Levy has made a deal with the devil.
Last night Tottenham Hotspur sacked Mauricio Pochettino, considered by many to be one of the best coaches in Europe, and replaced him with a man widely regarded as the antithesis of modern-day football.
The Portuguese tactician is a serial winner having lifted trophies in Portugal, England, Spain and Italy but these successes come at a cost. Usually, the manner in which a team plays football.
This current Spurs squad has done everything but lift silverware.
They’ve been in title races and finished as runners-up in the Champions League. Their achievements are even more impressive when you consider the tight budget Pochettino had to work with. But this golden generation is nearing an end and the appointment of Mourinho signifies Levy’s desire to mark it with at least one piece of silverware.
It’s a bold decision. If it works, Spurs add to their trophy cabinet. If it doesn’t, then all the good work done by Pochettino and his coaching staff was, essentially, for nothing.
Sacking the former Southampton manager came as a surprise. Spurs may find themselves in 14th in the top flight but they’re only three points off fifth. A couple of victories and they would’ve been back in contention for a top-four place.
But there was a feeling this squad, one of the best ever assembled by the club in the Premier League era, had gone stale under Pochettino. With 26 games still to play, it would’ve been negligent for Levy to allow the season to come to an end before December. The campaign can be salvaged.
While the move from Pochettino to Mourinho seems a dramatic one, there’s perhaps no better manager around right now for Spurs. On paper at least, this current squad is ideal for the ex-Manchester United boss to coach the short-term. There are a number of players who could thrive.
Here, we take a look at those who seem to be right up his street.
The first player likely to benefit from Mourinho’s appointment is Eric Dier. The versatile midfielder was a target for Chelsea and Manchester United when the Portuguese was at the helm.
According to The Telegraph, the England international was one of the reasons Mourinho found the Spurs project an interesting one. Throughout the years, he’s always had that powerful destroyer in his midfield third and for Spurs, Dier could be that guy.
Injuries and lack of form resulted in him not being part of Pochettino’s first-team plans but you can be sure that, if fit, he’ll be part of Mourinho’s first-choice XI.
Alongside him in midfield, if Mourinho reverts to a 4-3-3, may well be Tanguy Ndombele and Dele Alli. The former hasn’t had the best start to life at Spurs but, when fully up to speed with the rigours of the English top flight, he’s going to be a player favoured by the new boss.
He an all-rounder in the middle third. Diligent defensively, the former Lyon man is also handy when in possession and can be a creative force. In the short-term, however, that role could be filled by Moussa Sissoko. The point still stands, though, Mourinho has two midfielders suited to his style.
Then there’s Alli.
Once tipped to be the next big thing in English football, he, too, was linked with a move to Old Trafford when the former Porto boss was in situ. It is often overlooked but the 56-year-old has a knack for getting the best out of goalscoring midfielders.
He did just that with Frank Lampard during his first spell with Chelsea and at Inter Milan, Wesley Sneijder produced some of his best football. Mourinho struggled with Paul Pogba but he isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last to be unable to find a home for the World Cup winner.
Alli, however, ticks many boxes for Mourinho. He’s perhaps the closest thing to Lampard – his timed runs into the box can cause havoc. An added bonus is the snide factor. The England international will buy into the dark arts used by his new manager. He might be the poster boy for it and developing that aspect of his game can only be a positive for club and country.
Erik Lamela, meanwhile, is another who could gain a second wind under Mourinho. Arjen Robben thrived at Chelsea under the Portuguese; his explosiveness and ability on the ball caused defences all sorts of problems.
Lamela has similar traits and could be just as effective on the left-hand side of the Spurs attack in a 4-3-3. With Heung-min Son on the right, they have one of the best counter-attacking teams in the Premier League.
Spurs have a squad capable of really buying into the Mourinho way. It might not be the prettiest thing to watch but it’ll be effective. Spurs will win and Mourinho will win his mind game battles with the top six managers. It could be an ideal marriage.