Claudio Ranieri tried to sign Mauricio Pochettino for Atletico Madrid – and the Leicester City boss still admires the Argentine now he’s a manager.
Ranieri was keen on taking Pochettino, who he meets for the second time in four days when the Foxes travel to Tottenham on Wednesday night, to the Vicente Calderon Stadium when he was manager between 1999 and 2000.
Pochettino was at Atletico’s La Liga rivals Espanyol when Ranieri moved in only for money issues to halt the switch.
Ranieri said: “Yes I did (try to sign him) but not now! It was probably when I was the manager at Atletico Madrid, I always liked him as a player.
“I was very, very close but there was a little problem with our money at Atletico Madrid, so it wasn’t possible.
“He was a player I always admired, a very good player.”
Pochettino says he had a lucky escape when Ranieri’s attempt to sign him fell through.
“Claudio tried to sign me at Atletico. We spoke a little bit about that on the touchline on Sunday for two or three minutes before the start of the game,” Pochettino said.
“He said I was lucky because it was the year Atletico went down! The deal was done and I had agreed to go but there wasn’t the money – it was impossible to pay because there was a takeover at the club. It was lucky.”
The teams drew 2-2 in the FA Cup on Sunday and Spurs are fourth, four points behind second placed Leicester as they both chase a Champions League spot in the Barclays Premier League.
And Ranieri has also been impressed by Pochettino’s work as a manager at former club Southampton and now Tottenham.
“I’m very happy for him, he had a fantastic season at Southampton as well,” he said.
“Southampton started with the Pochettino era didn’t they? They started to build then. Southampton then lost a lot of players, but I hope we don’t lose players in the same way.”
But Ranieri conceded Tottenham’s rise could make Leicester’s progress in the league more difficult next season.
“Not only Tottenham, Southampton, Crystal Palace – a lot of teams are fighting to build for the top four,” he added.
“This is good it’s a good revolution in the Premier League, you don’t just have the normal four. It doesn’t make it easy, but we are confident in our policy, the owner wants to arrive at the top.”