Talking Points: Comparing Pochettino to Benitez

WIth brand new rumors circulating, linking former Tottenham Hotspur manager, Mauricio Pochettino, to the NUFC hotseat, we thought we’d compare the Argentinian to another man hotly tipped for the position, Rafa Benitez.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Background

Both of the hotly linked managers began their management career in Spain. Due to them both spending the majority of their playing days in the European city, they were familiar with the culture and style of Spanish football.

Firstly, looking at Pochettino, he started his journey at a club very close to his heart. As a player he endured two spells at Spanish club Espanyol, the first included 216 appearances from 1994 to 2001. The Argentinian then made the move to France representing PSG and Bordeaux, before returning to Espanyol to finish his playing career.

Just 3 years had passed since his retirement from football at the age of 34, and Pochettino was thrusted in to the hotseat at third-from-bottom Espanyol. On the back of recently acquiring his UEFA Pro License and picking up some experience as assistant manager to the Espanyol ladies team, first up for Pochettino was a trip to Barcelona.

Mauricio Pochettino in his first managerial position at Spanish club, Espanyol

He managed to earn a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp before his high press tactics flipped the clubs fortunes on its head. They strung together a magnificent run of form, including a 2-1 win against Barcelona, earning them a comfortable mid-table finish.

During his 3 year tenure at Espanyol, he implemented a high press philosophy throughout the club. Further to his success with the first team, he took a keen interest across all levels for Espanyol, attending youth matches and training sessions. He was able to personally scout younger players in the academy and integrate them into his first team.

Pochettino then made to move to the Premier League with Southampton in January 2013.

Pochettino managing his first Premier League team, Southampton

Whilst his English was not great, the results were. In his debut season in the Premier League Pochettino earned Southampton an 8th placed finish, with the highest points tally they had ever gained. Along the way he revolutionised the clubs youth system, introducing a wealth of youth into the first team. Luke Shaw, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, James Ward-Prowse, just to name a few!

It was not long until the Premier League big boys circled, with Tottenham getting their man in May 2014.

Mauricio Pochettino in his most recent managerial position at Tottenham Hotspur

It did not take long for the Argentinian to implement his philosophy in North London. He transformed the team into a high pressing outfit that have now solidified themselves in the top 4 of the Premier League.

He has provided younger players such as Harry Kane, Eric Dier, and Dele Alli, with platforms to excel, all now representing the England national team. He has earned Tottenham their highest ever points tally while also playing in a Champions League final.

Rafa Benitez’s Background

Moving on to Rafa Benitez, we have a manager who has taken charge of 13 different clubs across his career.

His first ventures into management didn’t go to plan, being dismissed from Real Valladolid after just 2 wins in 23 games while at new club Osasuna, he was also dismissed after 1 win in 9 games.

Benitez had his first taste of success at Extremadura, winning promotion to the Spanish first division, before making the move to Valencia. It was clear that Benitez was not first choice, however it was an appointment that paid absolute dividends for the club.

Rafa Benitez was lauded as a hero in Valencia after winning them their first title in 31 years

During his 3 year tenure in Valencia, he won 2 league titles, ending the teams 31 year drought, while also lifting the UEFA Cup, after beating Marseille 2-0 in the final.

In June 2004, Benitez became the first Spanish manager to make the move to the Premier League. Although he did not have the desired impact on Liverpool’s league performances, his debut season for the Merseyside club in the Champions League includes one of the most iconic football matches ever played.

With a squad of underwhelming players Benitez navigated his way to the Champions League final against one of the all-time greats AC Milan. Although they found themselves 3-0 down at half time, Benitez remained calm and made some tactical tweaks to his system. What followed next amazed world football – A sensational comeback which saw Liverpool, and Rafa Benitez lift the Champions League trophy.

Rafa Benitez lifted the Champions League with Liverpool

He did not settle with his squad after this infamous victory, acting ruthlessly he seeked further improvements, with Pepe Reina, Peter Crouch, and Robbie Fowler being brought to the club.

In his 6 years in Merseyside, Rafa won 4 pieces of silverware, developing into one of the most highly regarded managers, always finding a way to win. The Spaniard’s time at Liverpool ended with a falling out with the clubs owners, who would not match his ambitious plans for the club.

What followed next for Rafa Benitez was a journey around Europe’s most elite clubs, adding endlessly to his collection of silverware, and earning the label of a serial winner. He represented Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli and Real Madrid lifting a total of 5 further trophies.

To the absolute pleasure of Newcastle fans, Rafa Benitez chose Newcastle United as his next destination. He was attracted to the potential of the club, and the passion of the fans. His immediate task was to ensure Premier League survival, but this proved to be a step too much for the Spaniard.

The serial winner suddenly found himself in the Championship, but this did not deter him one bit, and he instantly set himself to work, ensuring Newcastle would return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Rafa Benitez winning the Championship with Newcastle United

Rafa Benitez then established Newcastle United as a mid-table Premier League team before falling out with owner Mike Ashley. The Spaniard could see the potential of the club, and knew that just an ounce of investment and ambition could wake up the sleeping giant. Ashley did not want to back Benitez, and therefore could not keep the man in the North East.

Rafa Benitez now manages Dalian Professional in the Chinese Super League.

Major Comparisons

Although both managers have experienced highly successful careers, they possess very different management styles.

Mauricio Pochettino is known to have a great relationship with his players, treating his squad like one big family and creating a relaxed and positive atmosphere. On the opposing end, Benitez is all about professionalism. Steven Gerrard, arguably Liverpool’s best ever player, revealed that he longed for a ‘well done’ from Benitez whilst he was at Liverpool.

Rafa Benitez prioritised professionalism over friendships during his time in Liverpool

The pair also have very different mentalities for the football pitch. The Argentinian enjoys a high pressing, attacking style of play. Promoting youth players into his starting lineup, Pochettino utilizes the energetic nature of his younger players to pressurize the opponent into mistakes high up the pitch. In contrast, Benitez prefers to deploy a much more conservative style. He often sets him team up to sit deep, soaking up pressure, before attacking the opponent, targeting identified weaknesses.

We then have the vast difference of experience between the two managers. Rafa Benitez is now 60 years old and has accumulated 12 pieces of silverware across 13 clubs, while 48 year old Pochettino’s greatest achievement is reaching, but ultimately losing the Champions League final.


In summary, the sheer fact that you are sitting here reading this article truly underlines the exciting future we have as a club. Regardless of the exact manager who ends up in the Newcastle United hotseat, you can guarantee they will progress the club, shifting away from the ambition of Premier League survival.

Rafa Benitez would propose the dreamy return of a serial winner to Tyneside. The man is already adored throughout Newcastle, and with an owner to match his ambition, who knows where we could be in the future under his stewardship.

Mauricio Pochettino,however, was just last year managing in a Champions League final, after helping to develop one of the Premier League’s best ever strikers, Harry Kane. The Argentinian would certainly bring the excitement back to St James Park, and who can imagine how he would develop the Longstaff brothers!

Who would you prefer to see in charge of Newcastle United?

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