Mourinho's 'joke' about Spurs-linked Chris Smalling shows why he would be a risk for Pochettino

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho

Manchester United's Chris Smalling has been linked with a move to Tottenham.

Manchester United's Chris Smalling in action with Fenerbahce's Robin van PersieManchester United's Chris Smalling in action with Fenerbahce's Robin van Persie

Tottenham Hotspur's search for defensive reinforcements continues, with the Daily Mail now claiming that Manchester United's Chris Smalling has become a target for Mauricio Pochettino.

Kevin Wimmer is expected to leave the club this summer in search of first-team football elsewhere, and whilst Eric Dier has dropped in to play at centre back in 2017, manager Pochettino may want another defender to boost his ranks alongside Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

With United snapping up Benfica defender Victor Lindelof last week, Smalling is now expected to leave in order to play games and keep his place in the England squad, with Spurs potentially offering a return to London for the Greenwich-born centre back.

However, Pochettino should be somewhat wary of signing Smalling and dropping him into Tottenham's way of play, given comments made by Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho earlier this month.

Manchester United manager Jose MourinhoManchester United manager Jose Mourinho

Speaking about United's Europa League final win over Ajax, Mourinho told Tribuna Expresso in his native Portugal that there was no way United would play out from the back in that game, joking about Smalling's poor ability with the ball at his feet.

Whilst that was a light-hearted comment, the signing of Swedish international Lindelof shortly after suggests that Mourinho may have been making a thinly-veiled dig at Smalling, and a possible nod towards why the 27-year-old has been a bit-part figure at Old Trafford over the last year having been so important under Louis van Gaal.

Smalling may be tall, strong and have a decent reading of the game, but technical ability has never really been one of his strong suits. Pochettino may want a more physically imposing centre back, but his poor ability on the ball means that he would be a risk for Spurs.

England's Chris Smalling in action with Scotland's Leigh GriffithsEngland's Chris Smalling in action with Scotland's Leigh Griffiths

Tottenham fans will recall a particularly tough first half at Manchester City earlier this season, when Spurs' desire to play out from the back under Pochettino was countered by strong pressing, leading to a number of mistakes from players such as Dier and Wimmer.

That display should be important for Pochettino as he seeks another centre back, given that Alderweireld and Vertonghen allow Spurs to play out from the back with their ability on the ball – and whilst Smalling does have his qualities, he may not fit particularly well into Tottenham's style right now.

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