Football was Mauricio Pochettino’s life growing up in Murphy, a small town in the Santa Fe province of Argentina.
“Even as a small boy I always remember playing football with my family,” he recalled of those days in the 1970s. “Football was very important to me, it meant a lot.
“It was my only toy, a football, and in my head it was always ‘play football, play football, play football’. I played all the time, everywhere.”
It’s no surprise then that the 1978 World Cup, hosted by Argentina, made such an impact on the young Mauricio. A six-year-old watching his heroes lift the game’s biggest trophy on home soil – it doesn’t get much better than that!
Under the leadership of famed boss Cesar Menotti, Argentina, including future Spurs legends Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, beat Johan Cruyff’s Holland 3-1 in the final in Buenos Aires (Menotti is pictured, below, surrounded by the press after that famous win).
Everyone at Spurs of course knows Ossie and Ricky, signed by Keith Burkinshaw after the World Cup in the summer of 1978, but the likes of Daniel Passerella and Mario Kempes are household names to football-loving kids of the 1970s.
“It was my first real football memory, the World Cup in 1978,” said Mauricio. “I was very young, six years old. We bought our first TV, black and white, to watch the World Cup.
“It was fantastic to watch the games. That moment was when I discovered football at a different level. I can remember all the players, legends – Kempes, Ardiles, Passarella, Bertoli, Fillol, Villa, Luque, Tarantini – all unbelievable players.”
It’s well documented that Mauricio was scouted aged 13 by Marcelo Bielsa, then working for Newell’s Old Boys, one of two teams in nearby Rosario (the other, Rosario Central), the biggest city in Santa Fe. He moved to Rosario at 14 and broke into the first team when Bielsa was manager in 1990.
“When I first joined Newell’s Old Boys, I never really thought that I would perhaps play for the first team or the national team or move to Europe,” explained Mauricio. “I was always trying to enjoy every time I had the opportunity to play football. I was never a person thinking about tomorrow, always thinking about today.”
Next, Mauricio and Maradona…