After missing out on Nagelsmann, Rodgers and Conte, desperate Tottenham are now chasing their SIXTH choice manager in Paulo Fonseca… He is a Pochettino-lite with little success outside Ukraine – and used too many subs in a match this year!
- Tottenham have turned to Paulo Fonseca in the search for a new manager
- The Portuguese boss was always on their shortlist, but was sixth choice
- A host of big names have turned down Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy
- The club are at their lowest ebb since before Mauricio Pochettino took over
- Fonseca is in a similar mould to Pochettino, but failed at Roma and Porto
It wasn’t supposed to go like this. When Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy sacked Jose Mourinho on April 19, he surely envisaged a super coach leading Spurs into the Super League era – with the club having announced their intention to join the breakaway just a day earlier.
But just like the Super League plans, Levy’s vision has gone up in smoke. Less than two months later, after failed moves for Julian Nagelsmann, Brendan Rodgers, Erik ten Hag, Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs look set to appoint their sixth choice to replace Mourinho in Paulo Fonseca.
Though he has been on Spurs’ shortlist since April, there is more than a hint of irony in the fact that after Fonseca left Roma by mutual consent just a month ago following an underwhelming seventh-placed finish, the Italians appointed Mourinho in what was seen as an upgrade on his fellow Portuguese.
Paulo Fonseca has moved into pole position to become Tottenham’s new manager
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy (left) sacked Jose Mourinho (right) in April
When Levy sacked Pochettino in November 2019, he already had Mourinho lined up, but there was no such forward planning this time. Ryan Mason, just 29, was thrown in at the deep end to take temporary charge and could not lead Spurs into the Champions League, after losing the Carabao Cup final in his first week in charge.
The immediate names chased after the news of Mourinho’s sacking were Nagelsmann and Rodgers, though both quickly became unavailable. With Bayern Munich’s managerial position becoming available around the same time, Nagelsmann was snaffled up by the German giants on April 27.
By then, Rodgers had already made it clear that he was not interested in leaving Leicester for Spurs, a position he would reaffirm again when Levy came back to him a few weeks later.
Ajax boss Erik ten Hag is another on Levy’s shortlist, was tempted and is still in the frame, but as it stands he seems more swayed by the prospect of managing Ajax in the Champions League again next season than Spurs in the Europa League.
Ten Hag’s hesitancy is perhaps born of the fact he has never seemed first choice, with Levy chasing Nagelsmann and Rodgers, then later Conte and Pochettino with more gusto.
Julian Nagelsmann (left) and Brendan Rodgers (right) were at the top of Levy’s shortlist
Antonio Conte (left) was not convinced by Levy and Pochettino is staying at PSG (right)
FONSECA’S CAREER AS A MANAGER
2007–2008: 1º Dezembro
2012–2013: Pacos Ferreira
2014–2015: Pacos Ferreira
2016–2019: Shakhtar Donetsk
Total matches: 594
Win percentage: 53.03
Honours: 6 (1x Portuguese Cup, 3x Ukrainian Premier League, 2x Ukrainian Cup)
There appeared to be a genuine interest from both Levy and Pochettino in a romantic return for the Argentine, but Paris Saint-Germain have made it clear their boss is going nowhere with a 12-month contract extension recently being triggered.
At one stage last week former Chelsea boss Conte looked set to join, but talks broke down with the Italian not swayed by Levy’s ‘project’. Having left Inter Milan off the back of winning Serie A due to a lack of transfer funds available, he would have been faced with a similar scenario in north London.
So it’s on to Fonseca, who was a candidate for the Tottenham job before Pochettino was appointed in 2014 and is in a similar mould to the Argentine as a manager. Both forged their reputations working wonders a small budget – Fonseca at Pacos de Ferreira and Pochettino at Southampton – and both are former centre backs with just a year between them in age – Fonseca 48 and Pochettino 49.
Fonseca is a likeable, charismatic coach but one who has failed in his two biggest jobs to date – at Porto and at Roma.
He did enjoy three trophy-laden seasons in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk before joining Roma, but it is fair to say it is harder to win trophies in Italy and Portugal, where he has spent a combined six seasons as a manager with just one trophy to show for it – the Portuguese Cup with Braga in 2016.
Fonseca had his most successful stint in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk from 2016 to 2019
He is essentially a Pochettino-lite, a manager seen as capable of bringing a squad together to play decent football on a limited budget – as he did best with Pacos de Ferreira in 2012-13 in his first season in the Portuguese top flight after five years in the lower leagues, earning the minnows a Champions League qualification play-off.
Fonseca does have a decent record in Europe, leading Shakhtar to the Champions League last 16 and Roma to last season’s Champions League semi-final, but he will perhaps be best remembered in the Italian capital for accidentally bringing on too many substitutes in a Coppa Italia clash in January. Roma lost the game 4-2 to Spezia, but would have been eliminated anyway after bringing on six players – one more than the allotted five.
For Levy and Spurs the hunt for a new manager over the last two months has highlighted the fact that, with Harry Kane pressing for a move away and no Champions League football again, the club are at their lowest ebb since Pochettino took over in 2014. They will be hoping sixth-choice Fonseca can work similar miracles to the Argentine.
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