LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 5 – Fuelled by the pain of last season’s Champions League final defeat against Liverpool, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has vowed to take his team to the next level.
AFP Sport takes a look at the north London club as they bid to win a major trophy for the first time since 2008.
What to expect
Pochettino was so devastated by Tottenham’s failure to win the Champions League for the first time that he hid away in his Barcelona home for 10 days before finally resurfacing to begin what he hopes will be an ambitious new era for his club.
While the 2-0 defeat against Liverpool in Madrid denied Pochettino the first major trophy of his managerial career, the Argentine is attempting to turn the page as the new season looms.
But Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy appears undecided over his manager’s demands for greater investment.
Ahead of their first full season in their swish new stadium, Pochettino has made it clear Tottenham must be more ambitious, with the club record signing of Tanguy Ndombele not enough to stop him asking for more financial backing during pre-season.
Adding to Pochettino’s issues, Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen has revealed he is looking for a new challenge, stalling on a new contract as Manchester United and Real Madrid wait in the wings.
Pochettino is marching on regardless, showing his ruthless side by selling under-performing England defender Kieran Trippier to Atletico Madrid and considering off-loading Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose.
Reaching the Champions League final partially obscured an inconsistent finish to the domestic season for Tottenham, who finished fourth in the Premier League after winning just once in their last five games.
In past years that would still have been cause for celebration, but Pochettino is dreaming bigger these days.
It took Ndombele just one minute and four touches to show why Tottenham splashed out around £54 million pounds ($66 million) — a club record –to sign the France midfielder from Lyon.
The 22-year-old unfurled a perfectly weighted pass that allowed Lucas Moura to score with ease against Juventus in a pre-season friendly.
Impressing with his power and strength, Ndombele’s movement and direct approach have drawn comparisons with former Manchester City star Yaya Toure, which might explain why he caught the eye of the Premier League champions before Tottenham won the race for his signature.
“With that first touch, he showed his quality, it was amazing,” said Pochettino.
“You see when he touches the ball, or when he runs, something can happen.”
Having caught the eye in the Champions League for Lyon, the confident Ndombele said: “I don’t feel any pressure. I am proud to be the club record signing.”
Harry Kane cut a forlorn figure at the end of the Champions League final after an ineffective display that raised questions about Pochettino’s decision to play the striker in his first game back after his latest ankle injury.
Kane’s fitness will be firmly in the spotlight this season following his battle with the ankle problems that have interrupted his career too often for comfort.
Although Kane scored 24 goals in all competitions last season, his run of three successive campaigns with at least 25 Premier League goals came to an end as a result of the injury issues.
The 26-year-old was a shadow of his usual dynamic self against Liverpool in Madrid, but he is confident of returning to peak form this season.
He has already netted an incredible stoppage-time winner from the half-way line against Juventus in a pre-season friendly and is determined to bounce back as he enters what should be his prime years.
“That’s what people say. They always say late 20s is when you start to hit your prime, so we’ll have to see,” Kane said.
“I’m not classed as young anymore. I’m in a good place. I feel good and hopefully I can stay as fit as possible through the season.”