Mauricio Pochettino knows he is at a crossroads as he tries to turn Spurs into champions.
And his biggest headache is trying to recruit new players good enough to challenge Tottenham ’s established stars, keep them on their toes and fearing for their places.
“Our fans know that we are not a club today that can compete with Manchester United and Man City for a player. We cannot fight them,” says boss Pochettino . “We work in a different way.
“This type of player we are talking about, it’s not easy to find them.
“For me, it’s better to play with younger players who come through the academy so you can improve them and after that their motivation is always higher.
“We need quality, and players with the facility to fight with our number one and to try to help them push their level. That is the key. If we’re capable of doing this, like we did with Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker, I’m sure we will have success.
“We are finding the balance but it’s difficult, because it’s true that now is the moment to maybe refresh the team with some new faces – and I’m sure that will happen.”
Pochettino, starting his fourth year at Spurs, knows this is a crunch season and he’s desperate to put pressure on his players to win trophies — and make sure they stay at the club.
“It’s like the chicken or the egg. Three years ago I hear, ‘We must play Champions League. If not it’s difficult to keep our best players’. And now, we have achieved in the last two seasons the Champions League. Right, now I hear ‘We need to win some trophies’.
“That is good, the pressure. I think it’s important to understand now that we need to be clever how we manage the expectation and how we need to put pressure on our own players.
“We understand that Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld are really good players. They want to win, like us. But they need to feel the pressure a little bit to improve in every season.
“How have Manchester City, United, Liverpool, Chelsea and different clubs tried to improve their season? By bringing in players and trying to put more pressure on their star players, their key players. We need to do that, too.
“Every season we need to be clever in how we bring more energy and make sure our main players are not in a comfortable situation.
“If I’m Harry Kane, like Dele Alli or Eriksen, and I look back, if there’s no competition in behind me it’s normal to drop your motivation.
“When the players and team start to feel that then it’s difficult to win because we need more motivation from every single player.
“That is the big risk for the future here. Because to create a winning team and try to win trophies, you need to feel the pressure. If we only keep 11 players and they know they always play – then success will be hard.”
Pochettino denied he has struggled to bring people in this summer because of chairman Daniel Levy, whose reputation as a hard-headed negotiator who’d rather lose a deal than pay over the odds precedes him.
So far, Spurs haven’t signed any new players in this window, while City have spent £217million, United £165m and Chelsea £131m.
“That is a very wrong perception,” said the Argentinean. “In three years, my experience with Daniel has always been trying to find a player to improve the squad.
“The difference is were they the right or wrong signing? But I think Daniel is very keen to sign every season in my experience.
“When I first came, the transfer discussions were with Franco Baldini and then later Paul Mitchell. We have a lot of meetings, spontaneous meetings, talking every day on the training ground. I think we are all involved in the process, Daniel included.
“Of course the last decision is between Daniel and me if we sign the player. But we are all involved in the process to try to find the right player for us. But the thing is Daniel is very keen to sign players like me.”
* Tottenham take on Juventus at Wembley in their final pre-season fixture on Saturday 5 August.
Adult/Junior tickets from £24/£14 atwww.ticketmaster.co.uk/spursjuve