Mauricio Pochettino regards Mousa Dembele as one of ‘five genius players’

Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino once ranked Mousa Dembele as one of the five standout players he’s ever worked with.

With the Belgian midfielder announcing he will retire at the end of the season, Dembele enjoyed a professional career with over 570 appearances.

Having left Europe for Guangzhou City in January 2019, the 34-year-old left behind an impressive body of work during his prime years.

Most notably with Spurs, where he racked up 249 appearances, scoring on 10 occasions and registering a further 12 assists.

A mainstay in the Spurs midfield for over half a decade, Dembele is fondly remembered by supporters for his dynamic abilities on the ball, and tireless effort off it. Dembele worked under three managers at Spurs, drawing praise from each, including Mauricio Pochettino.

Speaking in April 2017, then Spurs manager Pochettino told ESPN: “I always say, ‘Mousa, in my book, you will be one of my genius players that I have been lucky to meet”.

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After impressing with Southampton during his first managerial role in England, Pochettino joined Spurs in May 2014. There were only 11 more players the Argentine coach used more than Dembele during his spell at Spurs; injuries were potentially to blame for him not being higher up that list.

Dembele praised by Pochettino and other big names

Spurs were tipped amongst the title favourites ahead of the 2016/17 Premier League campaign. However, a recurring foot injury caused key man Dembele to miss a number of games across the season.

Despite the setbacks, it didn’t prevent Pochettino from describing the Belgian international as a “genius”.

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“He is a genius too, Moussa Dembele”, Pochettino explained. “We always told him, ‘If we had taken you at eighteen or nineteen years old, you would have become one of the best players in the world”.

The former-Paris Saint-Germain defender wasn’t alone in heaping the praise on Dembele. Illustrious names like Martin Jol and Kevin De Bruyne were amongst those to offer compliments to the midfielder.

An ex-Spurs manager himself, Jol described Dembele as “probably the best player on the ball I’ve ever seen”.

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Meanwhile, during an interview with the club, Manchester City ace De Bruyne chose Dembele in his fantasy five-a-side team.

De Bruyne labelled him as: “the best in the world” for the shortened format.

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For casual football followers, the admiration for Dembele may come as a shock.

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However, for fans unconnected to Spurs, the other four names on Pochettino’s ‘genius list’ may not surprise as many.

Pochettino names five players on ‘genius’ list

Naming former teammates Ronaldinho and Jay-Jay Okocha in his list, Pochettino played alongside the pair at PSG.

Similarly, the 49-year-old picked midfielder Ivan de la Pena, who he featured alongside during his time at Espanyol.

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Yet, undoubtedly the most recognisable name on the list is Diego Maradona.

Read: Eric Abidal reveals the joke that cost Mauricio Pochettino the Barca job

Pochettino was a youth team player at Newell’s Old Boys when the Argentine club pulled off the unthinkable transfer in 1993.

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Making five appearances during a one year spell with La Lepra, Maradona went on to strike a relationship with Pochettino.

The pair were once roommates and remained good friends until his death in November 2020.

It’s impossible to know how good Dembele may have been if Pochettino had got his hands on him earlier. The Belgian retires having left a lasting impression on one of the world’s best managers.

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