BARCELONA

Barcelona: Pochettino move causes divisions across Camp Nou

After being humbled by Bayern in an historic drubbing on Friday the name of the Argentinean has emerged again but his Espanyol past is a tough sell.

Barcelona: Pochettino move causes divisions across Camp Nou
ANDREJ ISAKOVIC AFP

The prospect of Mauricio Pochettino riding into Camp Nou to rescue a club at its lowest ebb in modern history is a sound enough policy in terms of tactics and the Argentinean’s alchemic ability to turn base metals into something more glittering but there is one major stumbling block: Pochettino’s avowed support for Espanyol. For the second time in 12 months the former Parakeet player and manager has emerged as a possible candidate to take over the reins at Camp Nou in the probable event that Quique Setién is handed his marching orders by the board but there is a rift running through the club at the mere prospect of a appointing a man who once called Barça icon Xavi Hernández – the preferred choice of the dressing room – an “enemy." 

Xavi still out of reach for Barcelona

Xavi has long insisted that he will remain at Al Sadd for the time being and recently signed a new contract with the Qatari side, leaving a fairly thin pool of potential managers to oversee a considerable rebuild of Barcelona. Pochettino has proven credentials, having taken Tottenham to the Champions League final but few at Camp Nou will have forgotten his delight at goading Barça during his time at Espanyol. One of his first games in charge was a 2-1 derby victory in Camp Nou, Espanyol’s first Liga triumph on Barcelona’s home soil in 27 years.

Eric Abidal’s number two, Ramon Planes, backs the appointment but club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who has already faced calls for his resignation this season, it understandably reluctant to anger the fan base further by installing Pochettino, who famously once said he would rather return to his farm in Argentina that coach Barça.

Pochettino not a popular choice at Barcelona

Several Barça executives and dressing room heavyweights have voiced their opposition to the appointment but there may be isolated pockets of support for his arrival, not least from his compatriots in the squad. The voice of Leo Messi rings more powerful than most and the shared history of the pair as Newell’s Old Boys players is an interesting side narrative but AS understands that most of the squad are against the idea while some executives are aghast at the mere proposition of installing the former captain of Espanyol in the Camp Nou dugout.

Also working against the appointment of Pochettino is the very real threat that it could effectively end Bartomeu’s reign as president. Presidential elections have been scheduled for 2021 with only Victor Font currently in the running to challenge for the big chair, but both Font and former president Joan Laporta have the option of tabling a vote of no confidence in Bartomeu if he decides to appoint Pochettino.