Mauricio Pochettino – The Player
Mauricio Pochettino has developed a reputation as one of the most exciting coaching talents in Europe after a playing career that took him from his native Argentina to Spain via France.
Pochettino was born on 2nd March 1972 in Murphy, north-eastern Argentina – coincidentally the hometown of Saints’ young goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
The centre-back began his playing career with Santa Fe-based Newell’s Old Boys, making his debut as a 16-year-old in 1988.
Aged 19, Pochettino and his teammates were crowned champions of the Argentine Primera Divsión in 1990-91 under legendary coach Marcelo Bielsa, before the league was restructured at the end of the season.
In 1992, Newell’s Old Boys won the Clausura in the latter half of the following season and qualified for the Copa Libertadores, reaching the final only to lose on penalties to Brazilian side São Paulo.
At the start of the 1994-95 campaign, 22-year-old Pochettino signed for Spanish side RCD Espanyol following their promotion to La Liga.
He made his Argentina debut in 1999, playing in a friendly draw with the Netherlands in Amsterdam. He featured at Wembley Stadium as La Albiceleste drew 0-0 with England a year later.
In 2000 Pochettino picked up his first piece of silverware since moving to Europe as Espanyol won the Copa Del Rey having recorded a semi-final victory over European champions-in-waiting Real Madrid, before defeating Atlético Madrid in the final.
Having made over 200 appearances in six years with Los Periquitos, the defender moved to France and joined Paris Saint-Germain at the start of 2001.
Pochettino was named in the Argentina squad for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan & South Korea, facing England in the group stage.
Overall he made 75 appearances for PSG, scoring four goals and featuring in the UEFA Cup before heading south to join Girondins de Bordeaux in July 2003.
However, Pochettino played for Bordeaux on just 12 occasions before deciding to return to Espanyol on loan at the end of December. He played 21 times during the latter half of the 2003-04 season, and made a permanent return to the city of Barcelona that summer.
In 2006, at the age of 34, Mauricio won his second Copa Del Rey before deciding to bring the curtain down on his playing career.
He made more than 300 appearances for Espanyol – the most-ever for the club by a foreign player – and was given the nickname of the ‘Sheriff of Murphy’.
Mauricio Pochettino – The Manager
Following his retirement, Pochettino began to study for his coaching qualifications having worked under the likes of Bielsa, Luis Fernandez and José Antonio Camacho.
He helped out with the coaching of Espanyol’s successful women’s side before being handed the reigns of his former club at the age of 36 in January 2009.
During his first few months in charge of Los Blanquiblaus, Pochettino steered his new charges from third-bottom of La Liga to a tenth-placed finish.
Playing in the newly-built Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, Espanyol finished 11th in 2009-10 and eighth the following season, missing out narrowly on qualifying for the UEFA Europa League having spent much of the season in the top five.
In 2010, Pochettino signed Portuguese forward Rui Fonte – brother of Southampton defender José – on loan from Sporting Lisbon before making the deal permanent a year later.
Los Periquitos spent the vast majority of the 2011-12 campaign in the top half before eventually finishing 14th, with Pochettino becoming the club’s fourth-longest serving manager in February 2012.
His reputation for bringing young players through the club’s youth set-up drew him many admirers from clubs across Europe and at the top of La Liga.
However, shortly after the start of the 2012-13 season, Pochettino expressed concerns after long-term financial issues left him with a restricted budget and affected potential transfer acquisitions.
With those difficulties in mind, Espanyol struggled at the start of the season before La Liga’s longest-serving manager left the club by mutual consent at the end of November after almost four years in charge.
In the 146 league matches for which he was at the helm, 49 resulted in victory (33.6%), 33 were draws (22.6%) and 64 ended in defeat (43.8%).