‘Just win a trophy’ - Pochettino and Klopp have the same asterisks against them, but management is more than that 3 years ago

‘Just win a trophy’ - Pochettino and Klopp have the same asterisks against them, but management is more than that

“You have to tell me what is the most important thing.

“When I win matches I come here many times and you are not happy and you say the most important thing is the way of playing.


“So I need to know what is the most important thing. If it is to play well or to win?”

As Jose Mourinho waved his fingers in the air to underscore his credentials as he demanded ‘respect, respect, respect’ at the end of August, a topical question introduced by the Portuguese was shadowed in the spectacle.

The man who has secured "more Premier League titles alone than the other 19 managers together" was annoyed at how the scoreline against Tottenham - a 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford - had clouded over the aggressive, high-octane display from Manchester United, who were ultimately punished for their miserable miming in defence.


Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino conceded as much too, saying: "When you compare the perception and the reality, we need to talk about the reality, and the reality was in the first half we can concede one, two or three goals."

Mourinho had often been on the reverse of such a result - victorious without playing well - an art some may agree he is a specialist in, but which he has largely been criticised for.

Trophies are continuously spotlighted as the ultimate measurement for managers and he has delivered two at United, yet the 55-year-old finds himself on ever-thinning ground.


His team aren't expansive enough, not stable enough, there has not been enough individual and collective improvement.

Conversely, Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp, who will be in opposing dugouts on Saturday as Tottenham host Liverpool, have an asterisk against their superb regeneration work as their silverware count at those clubs reads zero.

So, what is the most important thing?


Obviously, the ideal is to combine an enterprising approach with a solid long-term vision that produces continued success.

But is triumph determined in trophies alone?

Tottenham last lifted one - the League Cup - under Juande Ramos in 2008, when they finished 11th. Would any Spurs fan trade their position now - realistic title contenders, readying for a third consecutive season in the Champions League for the first time - to rewind to that period?

You’d have to backtrack to the early 60s to find a more promising succession of league finishes for the club than what they have recorded under Pochettino.

During the Argentine’s tenure, they have come close to fusing all their good with glory: two FA Cup semis lost to Chelsea and United as well as the League Cup final defeat to the former (when Mourinho was in charge at Stamford Bridge) in March 2015.


Does the scoreboard from that evening at Wembley - Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham - undercut the exceptional job Pochettino has done with the north Londoners?

Beyond the on-pitch difference he has made, the 46-year-old heavily subscribes to his responsibility of not just ensuring he develops his squad as players, but as people too.

Ryan Mason, who had to retire at 26 due to a fractured skull while representing Hull City against Chelsea in January 2017, credited the lessons he learnt under Pochettino with helping him through his post-football transition.

"Probably the biggest thing that I can say about him is that he didn't just improve me as a player, he improved me as a human being," the Spurs academy graduate said.

“He just changed my view on life through his values - he's a big family man, he loves creating friendship and values loyalty.

"Also when I say he changed my way of life, that way of stressing your brain I believe helped me recover from my injury because rather than feeling sorry for myself, that experience of being strong mentally with him helped me to change my outlook."

Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren, who played under Pochettino at Southampton, gifted his former boss a watch with a note that read ‘For my footballing father’ in September 2016 as a thank you for suppling a positive impact on his life as well as career.

In Brave New World, Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris states: “I think he likes to know his players, the people he has in front of him, before he gets to know the footballer.”

Klopp, meanwhile, has restored Liverpool as a force domestically and on the continent via a bullish blueprint that has resonated with the fanbase.

The Merseysiders, too, have been on the brink of football nirvana: spellbinding play sealed with silverware.

They have reached three finals under the German - Europa League, League Cup, Champions League - finishing as runners-up in all with Sevilla, Manchester City on penalties, and Real Madrid the respective winners.

Those defeats do not alter the indisputable fact that Liverpool are in their healthiest position for a decade. Beyond their explosive football, there is a clear, united plan in terms of the club’s development from recruitment matters to the upgrade in facilities.

The power to combine immediate progress with long-term advancement would not have been possible without Klopp, a point Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon has previously made.

Like Pochettino, the former Borussia Dortmund trainer spends as much time caring for the person as he does for the player.

"Without him I wouldn’t be where I am now," Trent Alexander-Arnold has said, adding "he really is a father figure to us all."

Sadio Mane, meanwhile, singled Klopp out as the reason he opted for Liverpool over United and hailed the way he has made the club "like family - the people are so close and especially the players. It's something that makes us stronger because you can also see on the pitch how close we are.

"The manager is a guy who loves what he does, who motivates you, who improves you at all times."

Pochettino and Klopp have both stated their overarching desire to co-sign their construction work with something to lift. "We have the highest ambitions," said the latter. "With everything I have, I want to win."

Pochettino, meanwhile has offered: "We all play to win, anyone who says otherwise is lying."

The pair, though, believe the process - the effort, the sacrifices, the obstacles and shared experiences - is as important, if not more so, than success itself.

"Trophies and medals, they get put away somewhere in the clubhouse and you forget when exactly it was and who won which trophy when,” Klopp once noted.

"What’s important is the moment itself, the memory of being there at the game, that you were part of it. That’s what it’s all about! The experience!"

But, but, but… don’t be distracted by all those crucial elements.

What has either Pochettino or Klopp won in England?

The question, a permanent weapon for shock jocks, is always locked and loaded. It is a favourite, too, amongst some former players and perennially filters through television and audio offerings.

But, but, but…

Arsene Wenger won three FA Cups in his final five seasons at Arsenal and that widely wasn’t considered adequate. Change was necessary and overdue.

Mourinho, as he is the first to point out, has an envious trophy haul, but is still marketed as the wrong fit for United.

His means can no longer justify the ends when Manchester City are a sublime juggernaut under Pep Guardiola, Chelsea are enjoying expressing themselves under Maurizio Sarri, Klopp’s Liverpool continue to elevate in such an exciting way and a tight-knit Spurs squad keep progressing so positively on Pochettino’s watch.

Trophies are imperative, but they are not everything. And they can't be if only one of the six clubs expected to win the league can do so. And just four out of six can finish in the Champions League places.

If Tottenham had win to the FA Cup, but end sixth, would that be 'success'?

What about if Liverpool lifted the League Cup, but came fifth?

Betterment is not always shaped by a shiny thing, which is nice to have and what clubs want, but not necessarily what they absolutely need as is made out.

"Sometimes you can’t win, even if you’re winning," a Premier League manager succinctly put it as he was having his picture taken after an interview.

"The focus is often on what you don’t do, not what you do."

It seems then, that the answer to Mourinho's question is that the most important thing is 'what you haven’t done yet.'