Mauricio Pochettino is winding up to fully address Kyle Walker’s defection for the first time when the double doors behind him swing open.
Pochettino, legs crossed and body slouched inside the Westin Hotel in downtown Nashville, observes the coffees on a tray approvingly. He is parched. His answer can wait.
He thanks the waitress for his frappuccino as attention turns to the bill. Tottenham’s press officer pinches it and starts to sign. Pochettino looks mildly distressed. ‘No, no, no — put it on my room. My room.’
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino admits it's 'so difficult' for his side to sign new players
Spurs have sold Kyle Walker but have yet to sign any new players this summer transfer window
Their lack of transfer activity has led to criticism of the likes of club chairman Daniel Levy
The cheque twice changes hands. Pochettino finally pays the four dollars himself. It turns out those in power at Tottenham do not mind parting with cash after all.
For that is the criticism levelled at Spurs, and more specifically their chairman Daniel Levy, this summer. With 10 days to go until Newcastle away, they are still without fresh blood and were soundly beaten by Manchester City in Nashville’s Nissan Stadium on Saturday night.
The last few weeks have certainly not been easy. Spurs can only start shopping when their more opulent rivals have finished and Pochettino is in the unique position of requiring reinforcements rather than first XI improvements. ‘It’s so difficult to convince good players to come and then be on the bench. Then the problems start,’ he says before revealing details of a conversation with Alvaro Morata, who joined Chelsea from Real Madrid last month.
‘Morata said to me, “Why do you want me if you have Harry Kane?”. You know, if you go to try to sign a striker, they will say, “Eh gaffer, you want me for what? To be on the bench? Because it’s Harry Kane, I can’t compete with Harry Kane” or Hugo Lloris or different players.
Spurs have been heavily linked with a move for Everton and England midfielder Ross Barkley
But Pochettino admits his side cannot compete with the likes of City in the transfer market
Of the teams pushing for a Champions League spot, Tottenham are the only side to have not spent a penny on transfer fees this summer.
Transfers in (Summer 2017):
Manchester City: £215.3m
Manchester United: £147m
‘Our fans know that we are not a club today that can compete with Manchester United and City for a player. We cannot fight.
‘(But) the perception about Daniel is very wrong. The thing is, Daniel is very keen to sign like me. This type of player we are talking about, it’s very difficult. It’s not easy to find.’
Ross Barkley is one they have identified. But does he have the temperament Pochettino demands? Can he start on the bench? Can he agree to a contract worth less than Everton have offered?
If those answers are yes then Barkley will likely play his football at Wembley this season. A striker is also on the agenda, yet for now Walker is the only major bit of business in or out.
At £54million, Pochettino is of the mind it was mighty fine business too, having seen the emergence of fellow right back Kieran Trippier last year. The Argentine debunks suggestions he and Walker fell out, with the player having sent what seems a genuinely heartfelt WhatsApp message after he left.
‘Manchester City have paid a lot of money for Kyle, like they have signed different players to try to get success in the future,’ Pochettino adds. ‘There’s no doubt he will succeed at City. But for me, I think we saw the best Kyle with Tottenham.’
'We saw the best Kyle (Walker) with Tottenham', Pochettino claimed after selling him for £54m
Kieran Trippier last season emerged as a