Mauricio Pochettino has hit out at Kyle Walker for asking to leave Tottenham before the end of last season.
Walker left Spurs after eight years at the club this summer, departing for Manchester City in a deal worth a potential £51million.
The England right-back had been a regular starter for the club for six seasons, but visited Pochettino in April, when the club was still challenging for both the Premier League title and FA Cup, to inform him that he intended to leave for a fresh challenge.
And Pochettino has now detailed the conversation he had with Walker, who he accuses of ‘slapping the club in the face’.
“I knew there would be speculation over why I left Walker out of the starting XI, but we felt Trippier was the right pick. He didn’t have a great start to the season, but he got into gear when his opportunity came,” he told Guillem Balague in his new book, Brave New World.
“His form dipped again over the Christmas period, but after that he kept upping his game, despite not being a regular starter. And sometimes, however much you put it off, you have to take the plunge and give a player a chance at another’s expense. Leaving out a regular always wounds them, creating a rift between them and the coaching staff that can be very difficult to heal.
“Walker had just played back-to-back games for the national team. Our first match after his return was against Burnley. Trippier had been doing well in training for a few months and got the nod, meaning Walker was on the bench. We played Swansea on the Wednesday and Walker started. Trippier came back into the team to face Watford on the Saturday and was man of the match.
“We won all three fixtures and were happy to have two regular starters competing for a place, with both players looking fresh for the final stretch of the campaign.
“Walker came to my office after the Watford game. ‘Gaffer, I’ve been at Tottenham for nine years. I’ve thought about it and my heart isn’t here any more. Nor is my head. I’ve given all I have to give. I wanted to tell you before I tell my agent that I want to leave this summer.’
“‘Kyle, you have to stay professional. There’s a month and a half to go. We’re battling for the Premier League and FA Cup. We have to be focused and finish the campaign strongly.’
“‘OK, gaffer. But it’s already decided.’
“‘Well, that doesn’t just depend on you or me. It depends on the club, above all. You’ve disappointed me because you’ve decided to tell me that you want to leave when there is a month and bit left in the competition… You could’ve sucked it up, kept quiet, trained, played and helped the team when not picked… and at the end of the season you could have come and told me.’
“Miguel [D’Agostino, first-team coach] was present. I always try to ensure there are witnesses during private conversations. I considered it to be an alarming lack of respect for his team-mates and a slap in the face for the club. None of that could be explained to the public at the time.
“I had to bite my tongue. From that point, the rumours started to proliferate.”