Mauricio Pochettino uses fire to test players and may add another World Cup winner to Chelsea, plus his son
Mauricio Pochettino is on the brink of being unveiled as Chelsea’s third permanent manager in the space of just nine months.
talkSPORT understands Pochettino has agreed an initial three-year deal and will officially begin work at the end of the season.
So, what does that mean for the fallen Premier League giants?
WHAT THE CHELSEA PLAYERS EXPECT FROM THEIR NEW MANAGER
One of Pochettino’s favourite party tricks is to test the willpower and personality of his players is by making them walk across hot coals.
It is an unusual and brutal motivational tool designed to push his charges to the limit of their mental fortitude and anyone who cannot stand the heat is unlikely to feature prominently in Poch’s plans.
The Argentine is a warm and tactile personality, getting to know the names of all club staff, from the washroom to the boardroom, and even the dates of players’ children’s birthdays.
But behind the loveable exterior is a steely and determined character who demands an intense training regime.
“It is going to be tough, and the players will not have seen anything like Poch before,” warned former Southampton striker Rickie Lambert in an exclusive interview with talkSPORT’s Boot Room programme.
“They will get pushed in training more than the games they will be playing. It is all a mental thing.”
One of the aspects that has most surprised interim boss Frank Lampard about the disjointed squad he inherited from Graham Potter is their lack of fitness.
That will simply not be tolerated under Poch, and we can expect to see a much sharper and more motivated group come the start of the season.
Reliving the famous fire walk, Lambert added: “He called that the Superman syndrome. He likes to push you in training to such an extent that when it comes to matchdays it is a rest!”
WHAT ARE POCHETTINO’S BIGGEST STRENGTHS AS A MANAGER?
Pochettino has always been a brilliant training ground manager and there are very few better at improving players.
“He took me into a place that got me my England caps and he was one of the main reasons I got to where I got to,” recalls Lambert, who went from working in a beetroot factory while playing non-league to turning out at the Bernabeu for his beloved Liverpool thanks to Pochettino’s tutelage.
Dele Alli is another who played arguably his best football under Pochettino and whose career has taken a sad nosedive since the pair parted while Luke Shaw took a long time to hit the heights at Manchester United that he did as a fresh-faced teenager at Southampton.
Pochettino has also shown he is ruthless enough to manage big egos by not being afraid to substitute the great Lionel Messi on his home debut for Paris Saint-Germain.
One of Chelsea’s biggest issues this season has been their crazily bloated squad, with players having to change in multiple dressing rooms at the training ground.
Poch will quickly establish who he wants in his core group and jettison those he does not see a role for.
WHO WILL BENEFIT MOST FROM POCHETTINO’S ARRIVAL?
Pochettino has built a glowing reputation for unleashing and developing young talent which makes him the perfect fit for the profile of squad Chelsea’s owners are trying to mould.
Mykhailo Mudryk arrived for a huge price tag he has so far failed to live up to but, at only 22 years old, there is every reason to believe the Ukrainian can emerge as a genuine superstar with his new manager’s assistance.
Noni Madueke, who only turned 21 in March, has shown glimpses of his potential and is another who should be excited about working under Pochettino, who will also look to unlock record signing Enzo Fernandez’s undoubted world class pedigree.
At the other end of the scale, sources close to Raheem Sterling have told talkSPORT he is enthused by the upcoming appointment after a turbulent debut season at Stamford Bridge.
There is a feeling at Chelsea that too many of their expensively-assembled squad simply do not care enough and have gone through the motions, content to enjoy the trappings that come with being a highly-paid player at one of England’s elite clubs without producing on the pitch.
Pochettino will instill some basic values to change that outlook as former Tottenham midfielder and current interim boss Ryan Mason can testify.
“The biggest thing I can say about him is that he did not just improve me as a player, he improved me as a human being,” said Mason speaking in 2019.
WHO WILL POCHETTINO BRING AS HIS BACKROOM STAFF?
Pochettino’s belief in loyalty is reflected by the trusted coaching team that has followed him everywhere he has managed. Whenever he speaks about his coaching career, the 51-year-old says ‘we’ and never ‘me’.
Assistant Jesus Perez is more like a brother than a colleague to Pochettino and will play a leading role in improving the fitness of the Chelsea players.
Pochettino will also bring with him to west London long-term friend and former Newell’s Old Boys teammate Miguel D’Agostino, who is leaned upon to provide tactical analysis.
Goalkeeping coach Toni Jimenez, praised by World Cup winner Hugo Lloris for ‘helping me become a modern goalkeeper,’ played with Pochettino at Espanyol.
His appointment does raise potential questions marks about present goalkeeping coach and highly-regarded Ben Roberts, pretty much the last man standing from Potter’s backroom team.
Family man Pochettino’s eldest son Sebastiano worked with his dad as sports scientist at Tottenham and is expected to take up the same role at Chelsea.
WHO DOES POCHETTINO WANT TO SIGN?
Pochettino has identified a new goalkeeper and a top quality no.9 as the two big priorities in the upcoming summer window.
Inter Milan’s Andre Onana is already being lined up to take the No.1 jersey while Pochettino admires fellow Argentine and Inter striker Lautaro Martinez.
Napoli’s Victor Osimhen is another potential forward target while Pochettino would love a reunion with Harry Kane, but it is unlikely Tottenham chief Daniel Levy would sell his record scorer to their London rivals.
West Ham captain Declan Rice, released by Chelsea as a 14-year-old, is another player perfectly suited to Pochettino’s demanding all-energy playing style.
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