Mauricio Pochettino says Harry Kane is on course to be fit for Saturday’s Champions League final against Liverpool and the Tottenham manager suggested he would live or die by the decision to use him as a starter or substitute.
Pochettino, who also reported that Dávinson Sánchez, Harry Winks and Jan Vertonghen ought to be available after injury, was keen to discuss how each member of his 25-man squad was equally important. But Kane’s readiness to take on Liverpool in the wake of the ankle ligament damage he suffered in the first leg of the quarter-final against Manchester City on 9 April has become an unavoidable talking point.
Kane has returned to training with the squad and in the past Pochettino has always named the England captain in the starting XI when he has been fit. To Pochettino Kane is the best striker in the world and the Argentinian has routinely been incredulous when the question of whether his team might be better off without Kane had been raised.
“We are happy,” Pochettino said, when asked whether he was confident the forward would be fit. “Whether to start him is a point we’re thinking about a lot. It is a decision that, one way or the other, will be judged after the game. If we win: fantastic decision. If we lose: shit decision, and you are going to kill me.
“We are working that everyone will be available to play and, at the moment, Harry is on course. Harry, Dávinson, Harry Winks and Jan – the evolution today is very good. And then it’s going to be our decision to see if they will be available from the beginning.”
Pochettino spoke of his dislike for the traditional pre-match photograph of the starting XI – he believes it should include the whole squad – and he told a story from his playing days of when he made that happen. Pochettino was one of the captains at Espanyol for the 2006 Copa del Rey final against Real Zaragoza and he ensured the team picture featured everybody. Espanyol went on to win 4-1. Pochettino was an unused sub.
“Always I was so upset because the picture is the starting XI and then, if you win the final, it’s only going to be those 11 players on the wall,” Pochettino said.
“Maybe people are not in their best [shape] but they want to be in [the starting XI] because they want to be in the picture just in case they win. And then, if there is a problem, you have to make a substitution. You avoid that if you say: ‘Hey, the whole squad.’ You’re all going to be in the history then. People care a lot about this. The players care about it more than we believe.”
Pochettino has run the gamut of emotions during Tottenham’s run to the final but he admitted it did not take much to have him well up with tears. “My mother said to me: ‘You are a llorona’ – a person who cries often and a lot,” Pochettino said. “My mum and my two brothers are different, and my dad is more strong. I am strong but very emotional and I cry.
“Maybe I listen to some music in my car, it translates to some moment in my life and I start to cry. When I arrive home, my wife says: ‘What happened?’ I say: ‘I was listening to some music that translated to a moment 30 years ago in Argentina!’ And she will say: ‘You are crazy.’”
Clearheadedness will be the order of the occasion against Liverpool in Madrid. “What I learned from playing the 1992 Copa Libertadores semi-final and final with Newell’s Old Boys was that your emotional state is decisive,” Pochettino said. “It’s not tactics, it’s not physicality. It’s about how the emotion will be the trigger for your talent, how you manage it.”
Pochettino said that after the dramatic semi-final victory against Ajax he felt one chapter at Spurs had almost ended but another that he wanted to shape was about to begin. “The moment that you reach the final, it’s like: ‘I want to be involved in the next chapter of the club’,” he said. “We are people who always need to be ahead and anticipate problems. You always put yourself in five years’ time, 10 years’ time or tomorrow. We need to be ahead of the players, ahead of the fans. Our responsibility is to create a project again.”