Mauricio Pochettino has not been back to Tottenham in nearly four years since his sacking.
‘I was thinking to dress in a different way, put on a mask or something but it was too risky,’ he said with a smile as he considered the idea, but his first return will be on Monday, and he appreciates the homecoming reception would have been warmer were he not in the colours of Chelsea.
Maybe it is still not too late to conjure up a disguise. ‘We cannot guess,’ said Pochettino, when asked what he expected. ‘We cannot forget that we lived together. Amazing memories and I am going to respect the people, and how they are going to express themselves.
‘It won’t change my emotions, my view or my feelings about a club where we spent an unbelievable journey. It is special to be coming back after four years. Really special, I cannot lie.
‘It was a difficult situation when we left the club, a difficult moment and now we have the opportunity to go back and see the people who are still working there, and it is going to be an exciting moment for us.’
Among those he looks forward to seeing is Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, the man who sacked him in November 2019, just five months after they shared the thrill of reaching the club’s first Champions League final.
‘He is the most important person,’ said Pochettino.
‘He gave me and my coaching staff the possibility to be in Tottenham. It was not only a professional relationship, also a friendship.
‘There are too many memories, nearly six years together and I only want to say to him thank you for the opportunity to experience great things, like to build the new stadium.
‘Up and down, good and bad but we cannot forget. It will be strange to come back after four years but it is going to be a happy day for me. We are professional but we are at the same time human.’
Pochettino transformed Tottenham, launching a new era with young players such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli, producing an attractive style of play, regularly finishing in the top four and returning the club to elite European competition.
They were runners-up in the Premier League in 2017 and beaten by Liverpool in the Champions League final in Madrid. Pochettino could not end the long wait for a trophy, which is still going on. He promised not to manage north London rivals Arsenal and wanted to return to Spurs, earlier this year, after leaving Paris Saint-Germain but Levy was less interested in a reunion, opting instead for Ange Postecoglou. That decision to go for the Australian looks inspired as Tottenham sit at the top of the Premier League.
‘Yes, I think so,’ said Pochettino when asked if Tottenham can be genuine title contenders. ‘Ange and the other coaches, they’re doing a fantastic job.
‘Very good players, very good team and you can feel they can be a contender. It is early in the season but they are showing the quality to be a contender. I am happy for him and the club. We are positive people and grateful people.
‘When a club where we were involved is doing well, we keep these links and we are happy.’
Chelsea, though, he insisted, were in a different place with many young players. ‘We are in a different project,’ said the 51-year-old Argentine.
‘All the history of Chelsea is to win big things. Now we are in a different situation where we are building something for the future.
‘Maybe we struggle a little bit in the beginning, because we are a young team, maybe not managing the details well and that is why we lose too many points.’