Pochettino could snub Tottenham return as players beg him to come back

What has gone wrong for Antonio Conte at Tottenham as trophy drought continues

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Mauricio Pochettino is reinvigorated and ready for football management again but will let his head rule his heart when considering a return to Tottenham. An astonishing outburst by Richarlison just moments after AC Milan knocked the London club out of the Champions League suggests the belief in the dressing room is that Antonio Conte will not remain in charge beyond the end of the season.

Indeed, several players are understood to have already been in touch with the Argentinian begging him to come back and breathe life back into the Tottenham project he helped build between 2014 and 2019. At the same time, it was the 51-year-old’s name that was reverberating around the concourses of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium following Spurs’ Champions League exit to AC Milan on Wednesday.

Pochettino has been out of work since July and, unlike his last break from the game which coincided with the Covid lockdown, has been using his time away to travel and recharge his batteries. He is determined to wait till the summer before committing his future, with Real Madrid also considering a move.

And with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy still on good terms with Pochettino, the first signs of revolt from within the dressing room suggest the players themselves are readying themselves for managerial change. Brazilian World Cup star Richarlison suggested even that Conte has lied to him about his selection for the Milan game, describing his treatment in terms of action as “sh*t”.

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In a tirade usually reserved for managers in the last days of their tenure, Richarlison told Brazilian TV: “Yesterday they asked me to take a fitness test in the gym and told me I was going to start today if I passed it. And today I was on the bench.

“I’m not silly, I’m a professional that works hard every day and I want to play. There hasn’t been enough minutes given to me, this season – and forgive my language – has been sh*t.” Captain Harry Kane meanwhile admitted: “The last week especially just hasn’t been good enough. Before the Sheffield United game, the season could have been a whole lot different.

“You go through there, you take that momentum into the league game at Wolves and this game – suddenly it’s different. But I feel like that loss last week put a dagger in our hearts and as you can see we haven’t really recovered from that. For me, we just lack a little bit of hunger and desire to get onto the scoresheet, to be better and to make sure we are affecting games.

“It is not enough at this level just to be on the pitch and play half-decent and not affect the games. That is kind of where we are at at the minute. We have got to be more effective, especially in the final third. We are getting into good positions but we are just not taking control of that.

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“Now the top four being our only target is a consequence of not playing as well as we want to play. Now that’s all we can fight for so that’s going to be the goal and hopefully we can achieve that come the end of the season. But for sure, it’s not enough for this club. I totally understand the fans’ frustration. They have the right to voice their opinion.”

Kane was surprisingly non-committal about the prospect of losing Conte as manager. “That’s his decision, he’s going to be the one that makes that choice,” said the man whose own contract runs out next summer.

Kane felt let down by Daniel Levy over a possible move to Manchester City two summers ago. In the aftermath of Wednesday’s defeat, he seemed like a man ready to leave on his own terms this summer or to see out his current deal and have a completely free choice to seek out that final silver lining to his glittering career.

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