Tottenham could replace Mauricio Pochettino with Zinedine Zidane or Eddie Howe – but it'd be as painful as it has been for Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson left

But Tottenham will be hoping that is later rather than sooner.

Because losing their manager now would set Spurs back years.

It sounds ridiculous to say that about a boss who has never won a trophy.

But if you look around the Premier League and Europe there is no obvious successor in waiting.

That is because the job Pochettino has done and his standing at Spurs is unique, certainly in the modern era.

Chairman Daniel Levy used to go through managers like Zsa Zsa Gabor did husbands.

Now he has finally found football love and settled down with his soul-mate Poch.

The Argentinian is Levy’s longest-serving gaffer at Tottenham after switching from Southampton in May 2014.

Since then Pochettino has not only fulfilled his brief of turning perennial Europa Leaguers Tottenham into a top-four team and making them entertaining again, he has given them an identity and made developing young home-grown talent fashionable again.

While off the pitch he has had key intellectual input in the construction of the new stadium and the players’ lodge at the training ground.

He is also responsible for introducing a new air of respect and friendliness throughout all levels of the club, including the chairman’s office.

Levy has wholeheartedly bought into his manager’s methods, which include shaking hands with colleagues and wishing them a good day when you first bump into them each morning.

The chairman, regarded as one of the toughest negotiators in the game, was renowned for keeping his managers at arms’ length.

Presumably because he knew he would end up sacking them in a year or so.

But Pochettino’s relative longevity has led to a new close working relationship between chairman and manager at the club.

The pair are tight and have a genuine mutual respect and fondness for each other.

This has led to an unlikely new era of stability at Spurs, which has underpinned their stark improvement under Pochettino.

He may have only been at the club for four-and-a-half years but his hallmark now runs right through the club.

If he were to move to Madrid now it would be the Tottenham equivalent of when Fergie left Manchester United.

And with no natural successor waiting in the wings, the North Londoners would be left in limbo, Pochettino’s project unfinished.

No new manager would be capable of continuing his work. Anyone coming in would have to rip up the blueprint and start again.

And how many managers would be willing to work under the constraints Pochettino has been forced to this season with no new stadium yet and no new signings?

Yes Tottenham would receive around £40million in compensation from Madrid if their gaffer decided to hot-foot it to the Bernabeu.

But it could cost Spurs more than three times that amount to bring in his replacement, staff and inevitable new signings any incoming boss would want.

And who is a viable candidate? Eddie Howe has done a fine job at Bournemouth – but nowhere else and has no big club or European experience.

While at the opposite end of the spectrum, Zinedine Zidane having been used to life at cash-rich Real Madrid is unlikely to want to scrimp it at Spurs.

That would leave someone like Brendan Rodgers, who popped up on Levy’s radar several times during his days at Swansea. But the Northern Irishman’s dig at Levy’s transfer record in 2014 may make the Celtic boss a non-starter.

There are reasons to dismiss all the bookies’ favourites.

Pochettino insisted before Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester City on Monday that he is happy at Spurs, has an excellent relationship with Levy and wants to stay at the club.

And when you hear him speak that passionately about his current job it is difficult to see him walking out on the Lilywhites, particularly midway through a season with still so much work to be done.

But we all know how fickle football is and how anybody in the game is always just one half-decent offer away from moving clubs.

Tottenham should keep their fingers-crossed Real Madrid president Florentino Perez looks elsewhere for his next manager.
For if Pochettino leaves Spurs it would be a major setback as there is no obvious replacement.

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