Nobody watching Tottenham’s dramatic win over Ajax on Wednesday will forget the outpouring of pure emotion from Mauricio Pochettino.
Tears streaming down his face, the Spurs boss congratulated every member of his team and backroom staff before returning to salute the Spurs fans still in the stadium.
It was a night Spurs fans will never forget as well as the hundreds of “neutrals” watching at home who found themselves going mad when Lucas Moura completed his hat-trick deep into stoppage time.
This wasn’t the first time that Spurs have defied the odds in Europe this season. It’s still hard to believe they even got out of their group given they had to get a draw at the Camp Nou in the most testing of circumstances.
Pochettino - as in Amsterdam - was indebted to an unlikely hero, Lucas Moura and the nature of their qualification should have acted as a warning that this Spurs team were capable of great things.
The Argentine manager has emerged from the past six months with enormous credit. He was declared as the favourite for the Manchester United job when Jose Mourinho left Old Trafford in December and championed by the likes of Gary Neville. Throughout, Pochettino kept a dignified silence, concentrating on his own job at Spurs - interspersing with giving construction updates on the club’s new stadium.
Tottenham did remarkably well to hang onto the coat-tails of Liverpool and Manchester City at the turn of the year but their challenge faded as the North West teams powered on. In the Champions League, Spurs continued their quest with dogged determination despite being without many of their key players at various points.
As well as being linked with the permanent manager job at Old Trafford, Pochettino’s name was also suggested when Real Madrid ran out of patience with Santiago Solari. Still, Pochettino was unfazed by all the speculation and the prospect of moving into the club’s new stadium seemed to enthuse him more than any fan.
When he arrived at Spurs from Southampton after only one season in 2014, Pochettino replaced Tim Sherwood. He had caught Spurs’ eye after guiding Saints to their highest ever Premier League finish of eighth with limited resources.
As a player, Pochettino represented Newell’s Old Boys who were then managed by current Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa, Bordeaux, PSG and Espanyol, the club where he took his first steps into coaching.
He became Espanyol’s manager in 2009 and guided the unfashionable Barcelona-based club to respectable finishes before having his head turned by Southampton in 2013.
In his first season at White Hart Lane, Pochettino achieved a fifth-place finish. Spurs had gone through 10 managers in 12 years so Pochettino’s relative longevity has come at the perfect time for a club which was in the midst of relocation.
The following season they pushed eventual Champions Leicester all the way before eventually finishing in third place. This was their highest ever Premier League finish and also secured Champions League football for the first time since the 2010/11 campaign.
He was rewarded with new contracts in 2016 and 2018 and though he’s joked that he’d never better a Champions League win so he might as well retire, the Spurs fans will be praying he’s their manager for years to come.