Five years ago, Mauricio Pochettino planned to align the “next Cristiano Ronaldo” with England’s very own Lionel Messi.
Speaking after an impressive 2016 pre-season tour, the then-Spurs manager made a claim that would follow Marcus Edwards around like a bad smell.
“His qualities, body and the way he plays reminds me a little bit (of) the beginning of Messi,” Pochettino told The Guardian.
Now 22, Edwards is coming of age at last away from the Premier League spotlight, fulfilling his vast potential in Portugal. There’s plenty of time on the winger’s side too, although Enfield’s answer to the six-time Ballon D’Or winner he most certainly is not.
Edwards, however, wasn’t the only exciting, twinkle-toed forward to have Pochettino drooling.
At the time, Tottenham hoped £12 million would be enough to convince London rivals Crystal Palace to cash in on a young Wilfried Zaha.
But Steve Parish, chairman of the Selhurst Park club, had a point – if Pochettino thought Zaha was the second coming of ‘CR7’, why would Palace sell a player with such vast potential for £6 million less than Tottenham were paying for Vincent Janssen?
“We’ve told Spurs there’s really no point bidding for (Zaha) because he’s going nowhere – 100 per cent guaranteed,” Parish told Goal at the time.
“I was told (Pochettino) thinks (Zaha) is the next Ronaldo. Well, I’d like to get the next Ronaldo for £12m!”
For £40 million, however? Well that may be a different story.
Five years on, Goal is reporting Tottenham are back in the race for a long-time transfer target just as speculation linking Pochettino with a return to his old stomping ground threatens to go into overdrive (Sun).
Coincidence? Maybe – but maybe not.
There’s a confidence too that, with his contract expiring in 2023 and having turned 28 in November, £40 million could be enough to get Zaha through the door at last.
Zaha, like Edwards, may have fallen short of Pochettino’s sky-high expectations.
But if Poch really does return to a Tottenham side crying out for a dash of creativity, speed and skill – not to mention facing up to Harry Kane’s heart-wrenching departure – the arrival of a forward who’s just enjoyed his most prolific Premier League season would be welcomed with open arms.