Mauricio Pochettino is an Argentinian coach and former centre back. He was born in Murphy, Argentina on 2nd March 1972. Pochettino began his professional career with Newell's Old Boys, making his first team debut in 1988. By 1989 he was starting regularly. Pochettino was heavily influenced by Marcelo Bielsa, who coached Newell's Old Boys from 1990 to 1992. He picked up two consecutive league title winners medals in 1991 and 1992.
In 1994 Pochettino signed for Espanyol. The Argentinian quickly established himself as a fan favourite. He helped the Periquitos to a 6th place finish in his first season. Espanyol had the 4th best defensive record in La Liga during 1994/95 when Pochettino was playing at the heart of the back-line. The following campaign the club progressed even further, finishing 4th, conceding just 36 league goals. Espanyol suffered a slight dip in form over the next couple of years, but Pochettino's displays remained consistent throughout. He was briefly reunited with Bielsa in 1998, when the big-man became coach at the Olympic Stadium. In 1998/99 he helped Espanyol qualify for the Intertoto Cup. Pochettino won his first cap for Argentina on 31st March 1999 in a 0-0 draw with Netherlands. The player continued to thrive at club level too, winning the Copa Del Rey with Espanyol in 2000.
In January 2001 Pochettino signed for PSG. He enjoyed a reasonably successful stint in France. He was part of Argentina's 2002 World Cup squad under mentor Bielsa. Pochettino started all three of Argentina's group games in Japan. He was heavily involved in the 1-0 defeat to England on 7th June 2002. Pochettino gave away a penalty, bringing down Michael Owen with an outstretched leg. Owen later admitted he could have easily stayed on his feet.
In 2003 Pochettino left PSG for Bordeaux. He represented the club in the UEFA Cup, but struggled for consistency. He moved back to Espanyol in 2004, initially on loan. Pochettino closed out his playing career at the end of the 2005/06 season, signing off with another Copa Del Rey winner's medal.
Pochettino quickly made plans for a coaching career after hanging up his boots. He had a spell managing Espanyol's women's side, before being named first team coach of the men's senior side in January 2009. Pochettino took over with Espanyol in 18th place. He won just one of his first nine matches, with the club dropping to the bottom of the table. Espanyol looked doomed, but things would improve dramatically, with the players gradually adapting to Pochettino's methods. He guided the team to a remarkable 10th place, winning 8 of the last 10 La Liga matches.
Pochettino was awarded a new contract as a result of his remarkable success at the end of the 2008/09 campaign. The former defender had spent a lot of his time under Bielsa as a player, and implemented many of the legendary manager's ideas into his Espanyol team. Pochettino encouraged his charges to press from the front, to use the ball intelligently and to attack using plenty of width. He was also forced to blood a number of young players, with stars being sold to raise money every year. Pochettino oversaw the development of players like Jose Callejon, who was re-signed by Real Madrid in 2011. Defender Victor Ruiz earned himself a move to Napoli, having honed his skills under Pochettino. Espanyol had another successful season in 2009/10, finishing 11th. The next year the club did even better, securing 8th spot. Things got a bit stale during the second half of 2011/12 however. The club finished 14th and continued to struggle during 2012/13. Pochettino left the club by mutual consent in November 2012. Espanyol were bottom, having picked up just 9 points from 13 matches. Espanyol's fortunes improved considerably following the appointment of Javier Aguirre, who gave the players more freedom to express themselves.
On 18th January 2013 Pochettino was named Southampton manager, replacing the outgoing Nigel Adkins. Pochettino's appointment was a big surprise, but once the initial outrage at Adkins' sacking had died down, the new boss received a fairly warm welcome from the Saints fans. He took charge of his first game at St Marys on 21st January 2013. Pochettino didn't make too many alterations, but there was a noticeable difference is Saints' play, with players closing down at every opportunity. The high intensity made for a very exciting contest. Saints drew 0-0 with Everton, but missed numerous first half chances.
The improvement continued in the next few matches. Saints were unlucky to lose 2-1 at Old Trafford. Pochettino's men continued to press to good effect, with Man United looking unusually vulnerable. After the game Sir Alex Ferguson said Saints were the best side to visit Old Trafford that season. Pochettino was minutes from gaining his first win at Wigan a few days later. Saints dominated the 2nd half at the DW, but were denied three points when Shaun Maloney equalised in the last minute to make it 2-2. Pochettino wouldn't have to wait too much longer for his first win. On February 9th 2013 Saints dispatched Premier League champions Manchester City 3-1. It was almost certainly the best ever team display by the home side at St Marys. The entire Saints team exuded so much energy and class throughout. The winning margin could have easily been a lot greater.
Pochettino had clearly made a great impact with his players. The Argentine regularly worked 12 hours a day at Staplewood, meticulously preparing his side. He was said to have a real aura, which definitely rubbed off on the side. That said there were issues he needed to sort out. The defence he inherited was a bit leaky at first. Saints lost 4-2 at Newcastle, and put in another poor display against bottom side QPR, who they failed to break down in a 2-1 defeat. The 0-0 draw with Norwich was ok, but things really started to click into gear after that.
Saints destroyed Liverpool 3-1 on 16th March 2013 in another barn-storming encounter. Chelsea were also unable to deal with Pochettino's boys at St Marys on 30th March. A week later Pochettino came up against the man he had replaced, Reading's Nigel Adkins. Pochettino won the battle at the Madjeski with a comfortable 2-0 win. By that point most fans agreed that Cortese's decision to replace Adkins with Pochettino was the correct one. The 2012/13 season fizzled out slightly, with Saints taking their foot off the gas slightly. The team produced solid displays against West Ham and Swansea, and were unlucky to lose at Tottenham. On the other hand, the 3-0 home defeat to West Brom was a total disaster.