FRIDAY’S BIG STORIES

Poch-back?

First, Mauricio Pochettino. Departing (maybe): Paris. Arriving (maybe): London?
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Now this one seems hard to believe. Throwing away the prospect of a first full season with Paris Saint-Germain to return to UEFA Conference League side Tottenham Hotspur. For some there was always a sense he would return to Spurs one day, but not just 18 months after he was sacked.

Mauricio Pochettino (L) and Daniel Levy (R)

Image credit: Getty Images

The Argentine is said to be “in talks” regarding a return, with his family still residing in Greater London and his son Maurizio playing for Watford. It would be an appointment designed to put a smile back on those frowning faces among Spurs fans – the majority, currently – and perhaps be Daniel Levy’s biggest play when it comes to trying to keep Harry Kane.
But surely, surely, Pochettino must be enticed by what’s in front of him rather than the size of the task at Spurs. With PSG he has his greatest chance of winning a league title, and despite losing out to Lille by a point this time around, he can at least say it was only half his fault having only joined in January.
To leave so soon for an unappealing role would be nothing short of a shock, but with unfinished business at Spurs perhaps Poch will be drawn back to a role he should never have been dismissed from.

Zizou the great unknown

Second, Zinedine Zidane. Departure point: Madrid. Arrival: Who knows?

Zinédine Zidane

Image credit: Getty Images

Now Poch to Spurs makes it a natural fit to suggest a man who has just left his role could take over at the biggest club of his home country, but let’s face it, this man’s an enigma. He did a Panenka off the bar and a headbutt on an opponent’s chest in the same World Cup final, and despite now having two terms at Real Madrid we still hardly know anything about Zizou the manager.
He could just as easily trot off into the sunset for another 10 months as he could be announced as the new PSG boss tomorrow.
The French club could well take umbrage with Pochettino’s “talks” and strike while Zidane is available – social media is rife with the idea bringing him to Paris would prevent Kylian Mbappe from wanting to go to Real – but from the outside it’s difficult to gauge what Zidane wants to do next.

Conte to Real?

Finally, Antonio Conte. Departing: Milan. Arrival: Madrid?

Antonio Conte posa con lo Scudetto, il tecnico in nerazzurro ha vinto il 4° scudetto della sua carriera riportando l'Inter al primo posto in Serie A dopo 11 anni

Image credit: Getty Images

In a week of major managerial departures this one perhaps tops the lot given Inter only secured the Scudetto this month and lifted the Serie A trophy on Sunday.
A fallout with the owners over transfers – there were reportedly plans to sell £67m worth of players (that’s €80m, hence the random sterling amount) – saw Conte accept a £6m golden handshake to leave.
And while Inter are said to be looking at Simone Inzaghi, who has just left Lazio himself, Conte is looking likely to take what is arguably the toughest gig in world football – the Real Madrid job.
Yes, after brushings with the Inter owner Conte fancies his chances of a smooth ride at Real under Florentino Perez’s watch. There’s not much on Real’s to-do list except undergo a major squad overhaul and reclaim La Liga, all while a cloud hangs over their Champions League status next season given their owner is clinging onto his Super League dream and not bowing down to UEFA.
So that sounds like fun. It’s sure to be an amenable relationship between the two, for perhaps a few months, while the fact Perez sacked two managers in the season after Zidane left the first time around means it may not be worth being the first or even second person to try and fill the Frenchman’s boots – or in this case suits.
It may however be a more attractive prospect this time around given it’s easier to follow up on a trophyless season, and so after all this talk of managerial merry-go-rounds it feels as though this one closest to becoming a reality. Maybe even today.

IN OTHER NEWS

Happy Champions League final eve

The Chelsea and Manchester City players have landed in Porto, and now the fans are slowly making their way to Portugal for the Champions League final on Saturday night. So will it be a third European Cup for Pep Guardiola or a first for Thomas Tuchel?

Thomas Tuchel und Pep Guardiola

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We’re not holding our breath in hope of a thriller, mainly because that FA Cup semi-final from last month is still burnt in our minds, but after three meetings already in 2021 this fourth offers the victor the biggest prize in European football.
That means there are some fantastic stories to be written. Phil Foden or Mason Mount becoming influential members of a Champions League-winning side. Sergio Aguero winning the trophy in his last City game. Fernandinho the first Brazilian to captain a side to Champions League glory. Tuchel steering a side he took over in January to the European summit just five months later…
Some of those will come true.
But on the flipside you can already read the fallout for the losers – the what nows and the where nexts. In that sense you almost feel it’s City who have more to lose, having chased this dream since the money arrived, but after years of trying this could well be their night. As underdogs, despite beating them in the last two meetings, it’s down to Chelsea to crush these aspirations and make history themselves.

RETRO CORNER

Speaking of, it’s 10 years TO THE DAY since Guardiola last won the trophy, and that means it’s 10 years to the day since Barcelona put in the most supreme of performances on the Wembley turf to outclass Manchester United.

IN THE CHANNELS

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COMING UP

The Champions League final tomorrow. Likewise the Championship play-off final between Swansea City and Brentford. Away from football, the French Open gets under way on Sunday – a certain trio have been lumped into the same side of the men’s draw – while the Giro reaches its climax. Stage 19 today. Stage 20 tomorrow. Stage 21 Sunday. Not to be missed.
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