News that Mauricio Pochettino’s contract at Tottenham includes a £10m buyout clause cannot but soothe Lilywhites concerned that Europe’s biggest clubs may soon begin making overtures towards their upwardly-mobile young manager.
However, the modest bid necessary to potentially prize the Argentine away from White Hart Lane also highlights a bizarre disparity between the value of players and the men responsible for channeling their collective efforts.
Pochettino’s exploits in his three jobs to date, at Espanyol, Southampton and Spurs, currently 11/4 to win the Premier League, have earmarked him as one of European football’s shrewdest managers.
His latest trick has been to transform the north London outfit from spend-thrift serial bottlers, seldom seen to trust their young players, to youth-infused title challengers, intently hunting down Leicester on the Premier League title run in.
He is a manager who has proven capable of convincing Spurs to reshape its modus operandi around his own philosophy, through the none-more-persuasive medium of results.
The Argentine should be one of the more sought-after properties in football, yet any club with £10m to spare is within their rights to attempt to woo him away.
How could the man responsible for transforming Tottenham in less than two seasons be considered so much less valuable than the players he instructs?
Only in extremely rare cases – Luis Suarez at Liverpool or Diego Maradona at Napoli – can the role of any one star be seen as more important to their side’s success than that of the man who picks the team.
Even Lionel Messi has not proven capable of inspiring Barcelona to La Liga championships in seasons where Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid boasted more coherent units.
Far more often, the manager’s role in forging a squad and indoctrinating them with their own distinct attitudes, philosophies and tactical leanings is decisive.
Pochettino is worth far more than a quarter of a John Stones.
The Everton centre-half perfectly illustrates the argument that a manager with a strong track record should be more valuable than all bar those players on the Ballon d’Or rostrum.
He has long been discussed as among the leading prospects in his position in world football and is valued accordingly.
Yet, the 21-year-old is struggling to get in to the Premier League’s sixth-leakiest defence at present, having been taken off at half time against West Ham and used as substitute subsequently.
Stones is by no means entirely to blame for the Toffees’ defensive incoherence, instead he is being repeatedly exposed by manager Roberto Martinez’s inability to strike a tactical balance between attacking and defensive commitments.
If offered the choice between the Everton man or Pochettino plus £30m in cash, it’s hard to imagine many Chelsea fans choosing the former, which is what makes the continuing undervaluing of managers in comparison to players so mystifying.
The men in the dugout generally outdo their minions in terms of longevity, susceptibility to injury, scarcity and influence on their clubs’ destinies.