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Mauricio Pochettino fondly remembers Diego Maradona ahead of FA Cup campaign

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 5 Jan 2024

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Mauricio Pochettino said he was “over the moon” to have Diego Maradona present the day his Tottenham team beat Liverpool 4-1 in 2017 to give him his fondest memory of Wembley.

Spurs played for over a season and a half at the national stadium after White Hart Lane was demolished at the end of the 2016-17 season to make way for the club’s new ground.

On Saturday, the manager leads his current side Chelsea on the first step to a possible return when Preston visit Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup third round.

In all Pochettino managed Tottenham in 33 Premier League matches at Wembley as well as the greater part of three Champions League campaigns.

But he said it was a thumping win against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in October 2017 that gave him his finest day at the stadium.

“One of the best memories was the 4-1 victory against Liverpool,” he said. “Diego Maradona was in the dressing room before the game. I wanted to introduce the team because it was a great opportunity.

“That was a special day, we had Kobe Bryant with us as well. When you feel special people with you, with the energy and the charisma. They helped us to win the game and perform really well.

“I was over the moon. To have Maradona, to play in the way that we played, it was an amazing afternoon.”

The win against the Reds, earned via two goals from Harry Kane and one each from Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, was Spurs’ fourth in a row in the league and saw them consolidate their place in the top four.

They went on to finish third before embarking the following season on a memorable run to the Champions League final in Madrid, where Klopp’s side got revenge for their Wembley loss with a 2-0 victory.

Yet Pochettino retains a nostalgia for the stadium, in part thanks to a further meeting for himself and assistant Jesus Perez with Maradona the night after the win in 2017, where they reminisced about their brief time together playing for Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina.

“Afterwards (the next day) we had the FIFA Best awards (in London),” he said. “After the gala, (former Spurs players and Argentina international) Ossie Ardiles said ‘Diego wants a Tottenham jacket’. We asked the club and I put it in the boot of the car with the driver.

“Diego called me and said ‘where are you – come to my hotel’. I said no it’s late, tomorrow we have training. Jesus said it was his only opportunity to see Diego.

“We went to the hotel and arrived with the jacket. He said to Jesus ‘sit with me – when I was at Newel’s Old Boys, he (Pochettino) was a kid, 17 years old, he was like my slave. I asked for water, he brought me water’.

“I said Diego, it wasn’t like this,” Pochettino joked.

“It was really special. We finished at one, two o’clock talking about football. Always we are going to miss Maradona. He was the best.”

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