LISTEN – Former Southampton chief Nicola Cortese reveals how a Philippe Coutinho scouting trip led to Mauricio Pochettino’s move to the Premier League

Former Southampton chief Nicola Cortese has revealed to talkSPORT how a scouting trip to see a young Philippe Coutinho eventually led to Mauricio Pochettino’s move to the Premier League.



According to Cortese, the Saints were close to landing Brazilian playmaker Coutinho after watching him in action during his loan spell at Espanyol in 2012, before he ultimately decided to join Liverpool instead.

But, the Italian explains the trip to Spain was still a worthwhile one, as it was the first time he laid eyes on the man he would eventually appoint to replace the popular Nigel Adkins – much to the surprise and outrage of many at the time.

A special guest on Tuesday’s Jim White show, the former Southampton executive chairman explained: “I occasionally accompanied our head of recruitment Paul Mitchell at games.

“On this occasion we, with Nigel, went to scout Coutinho when he was on loan at Espanyol, and I was attracted by this young man on the touchline. I just liked his body language, I felt he had a good impact.

“This is something I normally do – when I watch a football game I can see if a player pays a good game, but I leave the technical side to the manager and recruitment officers while I was looking more at what was going on around the stadium.

“The manager – I didn’t know what his name was at the time, but from that moment I started following his career.

“I started doing due diligence on him, calling agents who had players there and asking about their training regime.

“I was collecting information, just in case, but I was still far away from appointing him at the time.”

Adkins’ sacking was slammed as ruthless and harsh by many in the media, having led the club from League One to the Premier League with back-to-back promotions.

Atkins left St Mary’s on the back of a run of just two defeats in 12 games and with the team three points clear of the bottom three – a promising position for a club that were still establishing themselves as a top-flight side.

Pochettino’s immediate appointment was another surprise to pundits, with many questioning whether a 41-year-old Argentine had the experience to cut it in the Premier League.

Now, of course, the former defender is considered one of the brightest young managers in Europe and in charge of a youthful Tottenham side striving for the big time, and very nearly in reach of it.

Asked if he ever doubted himself or his decision over Pochettino’s appointment, Cortese said: “No, I didn’t.

“It was never easy when we parted ways with a manager, but we always looked forward.

“I agree it was very surprising for everyone because, and this is what Nigel had to swallow for many months afterwards, let’s not forget that in the previous ten games we had eight positive results, so why did he get sacked?

“But to me, in that moment, what we had to do was the next step and I just felt that it wasn’t possible at the time with Nigel.

“We had a young hungry team, we needed something fresh, something different and Mauricio was basically everything I was looking for.

“I had not one slice of doubt – it was going to work.

“I could see from the very first training session how committed the players were to trying something new.

“Sure, Mauricio’s language skills at the beginning weren’t that great but, as they say in football, it’s the ball that does the talking.”

Listen back to Nicola Cortese’s special guest appearance on the Jim White show IN FULL above!

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