SOCCER

“Failure shapes us”: an imaginary video call between Bielsa and Pochettino | Mauricio Pochettino

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Topic: Mauricio Pochettino Zoom Dating
Mon, June 13, 2022 01:51 (CET)

[Marcelo Bielsa’s iPad has joined the meeting.]

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Pochettino: Hello? Hello? Marcello?

Bielsa: Mauritius? Can you hear me?

Pochettino: Yes, I can hear you now. You’ve been… silent for a while.

Bielsa: So that makes us two.

Pochettino: Is this a good time?

Bielsa: Well, St. Kitts and Nevis versus St. Maarten in the Concacaf Nations League won’t look at each other. But don’t worry, I’m recording it. So Paris. It’s finish? Completed?

Pochettino: Almost. The starting conditions have already been agreed. We’re just waiting for the folks at Kylian to approve the message.

Bielsa: I read his contract. Is it true that he now chooses the initiation song for each new player?

Pochettino: It’s true. Nuno Mendes was to perform a secular French rap. This embarrassed him greatly. But when you have a player like Mbappé…

Bielsa: … you play him as a centre-forward in 72% of your matches and as a left winger in the remaining 28%. Overall your most common formation is an inverted 4-3-3, but when Neymar is available you switch to a 4-2-3-1. When Icardi plays with Mbappé, you prefer a diamond midfielder. With Messi and not Mbappé, you start in 4-2-2-2 with Di María slightly behind.

Pochettino: What does that tell you?

Bielsa: Does not ring a bell. It’s useless. But out of respect for you, I wanted to prepare this call in the right way.

Pochettino: I expected no less.

Bielsa: However, you didn’t contact me to talk about tactics or French rap. You called with a ridiculous idea that I could advise you. And you called to ask for forgiveness.

Pochettino: Forgiveness for what?

Bielsa: For ditching your sporting principles and joining a leisurewear company posing as a football team. You don’t need me to tell you what a bad idea that was. You already know it.

Pochettino: Are you judging me for wanting to win?

Bielsa: I don’t judge anyone but myself. Anyway, I suspect you didn’t make this move with your heart, or even your head, but with – and I apologize for my rudeness – with your balls. You thought you could tame the indomitable. You thought you succeeded where Blanc, Emery and Tuchel had all failed, and bent this unholy sideshow to your will. What did you learn, apart from the fact that Messi is worse than useless in possession and Neymar likes to have fun?

Pochettino: I went to one of Ney’s parties. Never in my life have I seen anything like it. There was a champagne hot tub, a glass dance floor, a laser archery range, miniature drones carrying trays of snacks. One of the guest suites had been turned into a petting zoo. I saw Marco Verratti riding a pig. Neymar himself wore a turban studded with emeralds. Finally, I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom. There was a Tesla in it.

The holy trinity of Paris Saint-Germain composed (from left to right) of Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Neymar. Photography: Stéphane Mahé/Reuters

Bielsa: What about training?

Pochettino: What about training? Once I tried to organize a rondo. But Leo refuses to go in the middle. And if Leo won’t go in the middle, then neither will Ney or Kylian. And then nobody wants to go there. Finally, Jesús and I had to go in the middle. We stayed there for 45 minutes. Another time, I was explaining to Leo the concept of defensive transition. He had to go get his translator.

Bielsa: I’m not bragging about my stay in Leeds. It was a failure, like all the others. But for a time, there was cohesion and respect. I won’t say love, because it’s hard to love someone who just made you vomit on a treadmill. But one morning, at breakfast, Luke Ayling brought in a painting his daughter had done in nursery. A painting of me. “Uncle Marcelo,” she called him.

Pochettino: Ah.

Bielsa: Overall the paint was not of high quality. The brushstroke was vague and the glitter application left a lot to be desired. But over time, I’ve learned that it’s best not to say those things.

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Pochettino: Is that what makes you happy? Build a project? Start a family ?

Bielsa: Happiness is not the right word. There is no happiness in football, only winning and losing. Winning delays anxiety for a few minutes, maybe more. You tell me. You have won more titles in 18 months than I have in 30 years. Did it give you the same stimulation you felt in Southampton? At Espanyol? At Newell? In the fields, with your friends, when you first learned to solve a problem?

Pochettino: I don’t really detect any advice here.

Bielsa: It’s because I can’t tell you anything useful. Certainly nothing that I can teach you on the sporting level. What would I know about coaching Juventus, Chelsea or Bayern Munich? Or ask your agent to plant stories in Marca? All I know is that no project is perfect. No job is secure. No club is immune to greed, dishonesty and disrespect. But we come back anyway, because that’s the nature of our obsession. And each failure shapes us. It builds us. It brings us closer to the truth.

Pochettino: Which one is?

Bielsa: I do not know. But if you ever find out, let me know.

[Marcelo Bielsa’s iPad has left the meeting.]

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