How Mourinho replaced Pochettino: Inside Tottenham's turbulent day

How Spurs players found out

The players are always the last to know. None of Tottenham’s players, either those away on international duty or returning to training following a brief break, were aware that this change was coming. Sources told ESPN FC that many of Spurs’ senior players understood how broken the relationship was between Pochettino and his bosses, namely club chairman Daniel Levy, but they still had support for their under-fire manager even after his dismissal. A lot of the dressing room still bought into Pochettino’s principles and were shell-shocked by the change.

Equally, the squad was even more stunned by Mourinho’s appointment. Nobody saw that coming; sources told ESPN FC that some figures are skeptical about the complete change of philosophy and style. None of the players were consulted over the appointment of Mourinho, as you’d expect; what stood out was how the hire marked a break from Levy’s usual operations. Equally, sources say that his intermediaries were telling clubs in recent weeks that he wasn’t solely waiting for the Real Madrid job, as some reports had suggested, so as to hint at his interest in other jobs.

The change was discussed heavily in the first team squad WhatsApp group as soon as news of Mourinho’s appointment was made public. But no amount of chatter or discussion could really prepare the players: the mood was strange Wednesday morning when they began arriving at the training ground and saw him and not Pochettino.

Mourinho arrived at around 6:30 a.m. He had breakfast with some members of the club and put his new club tracksuit on before going straight to work: a session of video analysis, some tactical analysis and preparations for his first training session. He wanted training to take place in the afternoon so all his new staff would be there, including Joao Sacramento, his new assistant, who came from Lille and remarkably made it on time.

‘Back me and I’ll make you winners’

Mourinho had prepared everything in his head; he’d planned the whole day. The early arrival, the work to be done regarding his new team and new players, the act of meeting the club’s staff at the training ground but also planning the first training session. He knew the most important part of the day would be his first chat to the players: for this transition in power to work, Mourinho had to win the dressing room. Of course, he excels in those situations. He is so good at rallying people and finding the right words to galvanise a crowd.

Mourinho met Daniel Levy on Wednesday morning as well. The night before, once Pochettino’s exit had been confirmed, Mourinho was waiting at home, being informed of every little development. Pini Zahavi, who is very close to both Mourinho and Levy, brokered the deal and both parties had total faith in him to conclude things swiftly. According to ESPN FC sources, the Israeli “super agent” had pitched the idea of Mourinho taking over for Pochettino to Levy three weeks ago, making Tuesday night’s negotiations more of a formality than a complicated back-and-forth.