SINGAPORE - For Tottenham fans, the 2-0 defeat by Liverpool in the Champions League final last month was a bitter moment, and one to forget.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino revealed at an International Champions Cup press conference on Friday (July 19) that he might have walked away had Spurs won, citing how “when you touch glory, sometimes you behave different, feel different, or your challenges become different.”
But the heartbreak led him to have a change of heart because he wanted to help the club rebound from the gut-wrenching loss.
“If it was a different result in the final, you are thinking, ‘Maybe it’s a moment to step out of the club or give the club possibility to (embark on) a new chapter with new coaching staff’,” said the Argentinian, whose side play Juventus at the National Stadium on Sunday.
“But, after the final... to finish like this; I am not a person who avoids facing the problems or difficult situations. I love a massive challenge.
“And to rebuild now the mentality, that it’s possible to next season repeat a similar season – that excites me and motivates me a lot.”
At the turn of the year, Pochettino, 47, had been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid and Manchester United, who had just sacked their respective managers.
Real have since re-hired Zinedine Zidane, while United gave former striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the job on a permanent basis after a bright start as caretaker.
Pochettino, however, reiterated how proud he was of the progress Spurs had made since he took over in 2014, and said he was eager to lead it into “a new era”.
The north London club, who finished fourth in the English Premier League last season, have marked several milestones in recent months – they opened their new £1 billion (S$1.67 billion) stadium in April and reached their first Champions League final.
Earlier this month, they broke their transfer record to sign French midfielder Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon for £65 million.
“Of course, it’s going to be another massive challenge for us next season, but we are brave, we have the motivation and we are going to fight,” said Pochettino.
With the transfer window for Premier League teams closing on Aug 8, Pochettino was non-committal on whether he will sign any more players and insisted he was happy with his squad.
That is despite right-back Kieran Trippier leaving for Atletico Madrid in a £20 million move, and the likes of left-back Danny Rose and Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen making public comments about seeking an exit from the club.
On transfers, Pochettino would only say: “I told Daniel (Levy, Spurs chairman) during the flight from London that I will be happy with the squad that you are going to provide me to work with. I’m a happy man, working with 25 players, always... That is my nature.”
On Friday morning, some 200 Spurs supporters got to watch their idols being put through their paces during the team’s official training session at the National Stadium.
South Korean star Son Heung-Min was first out of the dressing room, prompting several greetings of “annyeonghaseyo” (hello in Korean) from excited fans in the stands.
Before he started working with the ball, one of Spurs’ trainers taped a wrist guard on him, prompting a supporter to shout: “Sonny, what happened to your wrist?”
If the 25-year-old was injured, it certainly did not affect him in training, as he bulged the net numerous times with his deadly left foot.
Other stars like captain Harry Kane and midfielder Dele Alli also looked sharp in front of goal and did not appear to struggle with the heat and humidity despite only arriving a day earlier.
Pochettino, with a jacket tied around his waist, also appeared in a relaxed mood. Sat on a ball, he kept a watchful eye as the players took part in a small-sided game.
He later told the media that he had not decided on his starting XI for Sunday’s game against Juventus.
But he promised every member of the squad will get game time, with the exception of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (tonsilitis) who missed training and Eriksen (groin) who trained on his own as he continues rehabilitation from surgery at the end of last season.
Added Pochettino with a smile: “So to all our fans here, relax. All our players will be on the pitch.”