by Joseph Sexton
Mauricio Pochettino’s remarkable work with the Espanyol youth academy helped win him a dream job with Saints – and the backing of ex-Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola!
The 40-year-old Argentinian was sacked by the La Liga club towards the end of last November with Espanyol bottom of the table.
In his last 20 league games with the club, stretching back to the end of last season, the new Saints boss won just three and lost 13.
During his 145 games in the Spanish top flight with Barcelona-based Espanyol, Pochettino’s win ratio was 34 per cent with 44 per cent of games lost.
But it was his work with Espanyol’s academy that mainly attracted him to Saints chairman Nicola Cortese.
Pochettino is held in high regard in Spain, and Bayern Munich boss in waiting Guardiola has said: “I admire him for his ideals, his character. The foundations of his principles are always the same.”
Saints’ academy has produced gems in recent years such as Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Alex Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and now Luke Shaw.
But Espanyol’s record is even more impressive, and Pochettino takes a lot of credit for that.
They have produced a remarkable 15 Spanish internationals across all age levels since the turn of the Millennium.
Around forty players currently appearing in Spain’s top two divisions have come from Espanyol.
Cortese has said he wants to build a Barcelona-type model at Saints. Seven of the Barca side that started the 2009 Champions League final were home-grown, and Cortese believes he can oversee such a system at St Mary’s.