Premier League • England

Pochettino sack: Chelsea boss addresses Mourinho return talk; tells stars ‘to speak to Boehly’ if they want him axed

Mauricio Pochettino is aware of Jose Mourinho links to the Chelsea job

Mauricio Pochettino is aware of Jose Mourinho links to the Chelsea job

Under-pressure Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino has challenged his players to go and speak to the club’s owners if they want him removed as manager, having laid down a warning about speculation he could be replaced by Jose Mourinho as manager.

The Blues have struggled to find any sort of consistency this season, with Chelsea currently finding themselves top of the bottom half of the Premier League and having managed just 10 wins and suffering 10 defeats from their 26 matches played so far. But having overseen another vast influx of costly new signings last summer, patience is seemingly wearing thin at Stamford Bridge.

Indeed, co-owner Todd Boehly has lavishly spent over £1bn in pursuit of trying to elevate the Blues back among the Premier League elite. Ironically, current incumbent Pochettino now finds himself in a remarkably similar position to where Graham Potter was last April when the axe was brought down on his reign at the club.

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That pressure has intensified in the wake of last month’s Carabao Cup final heartache to Liverpool, when Chelsea wasted a glorious chance to claim a first trophy since the 2021 Champions League final in a Wembley showdown against Jurgen Klopp’s patched up and largely-inexperienced side.

Yet despite coming close to winning the game in regular time, Pochettino and Co let Liverpool off the hook with punishment arriving in the fullest just two minutes from the end of extra time when Virgil van Dijk rose to head home the winner.

That led to Gary Neville firing both barrels at Chelsea, labelling them ‘Blue billion pound bottle jobs’ and with speculation over Pochettino’s future rising as a result.

Pochettino responds to Chelsea sack talk and makes Mourinho admission

Pochettino, however, is adamant he still has the support of co-owners Boehly and Behdad Eghbali, claiming he received a call from both men within hours of that Wembley disappointment to offer him words of encouragement.

Nonetheless, reports over his potential removal as manager continue to do the rounds and amid claims two former Blues bosses in Mourinho and Thomas Tuchel have been shortlisted as possible successors.

Despite that, Pochettino is likely to be judged on his ability to qualify for European competition once again next season, with the Blues able to close the gap on seventh – which is widely seen as the benchmark needed to achieve that – to just four points if they can beat Newcastle in the Monday Night Football.

There is also the small matter that Chelsea fans have been heard chanting Mourinho’s name in recent games, leading the Argentine to be once again asked about his future.

And in a challenge to his players, he has told them: “If the players believe that with another coach they can do better, maybe they can talk with the owner or sporting director.

“Do you see me worried about this? No. Is it a problem of attitude? No. You can see in the way they behave that they are behind us. Of course there is no doubt.

“They are doing everything to try to win. And to try to give their best. There is no doubt about that.”

Asked specifically about Mourinho replacing him, Pochettino added: “I respect Jose, he is my friend. He was amazing for this club, his memories here are amazing. Circumstance is circumstance.

“We need to be pushing and believe in ourselves and accept the things that come from the fans — respect the fans.”

Mourinho discusses chances of Stamford Bridge return

Pochettino insists that Mourinho – who won seven major trophies during two spells at Stamford Bridge – would be returning to a very different club were he to take up a third stint in charge.

“It is a different project, today is a different Chelsea,” Pochettino added, before declaring: “If you are going to judge us and analyse the situation compared to the past of Chelsea, no one is going to win, no one is going to succeed.

“The fans are not going to love another coach of Chelsea any more. People need to understand that it is different. I try to explain but it’s like I move my mouth and they don’t hear anything.”

Mourinho himself, meanwhile, has also broken his silence over his future.

The 61-year-old is out of work after leaving Roma earlier this season and appears keen to return to management at the next big opportunity.

“I’m not in a rest, I want to work,” he told BeIN Sport.

“I want to work but I just don’t want to have the wrong decision. I have to wait for the right one, the one that motivates me. But if I could work tomorrow I would work tomorrow.”

Pochettino has a 45.95% win success rate at Chelsea, while Mourinho, by contrast, managed 67.03% in his first spell and 58.82% the second time around.

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