Osvaldo Ardiles: “Pochettino lives practically in the club, he hardly knows London”

The first person appears only when there is something serious to talk about: war. For the rest, Osvaldo Ardiles (Córdoba, Argentina, 1952) gently warns that he does not like to talk about himself. The Malvinas marked his life, while he played in Comanche territory in every way: in the enemy’s country and in contact football that had little to do with his touch. In the conflict he lost a second cousin, José Ardiles , fighter pilot, and could lose his own life in a traffic accident, five years ago. However, he decided to resist hatred and, as he explains in conversation with El Mundo, “build bridges”. Years later, he received an emotional letter from the pilot who shot down his family member. The Argentine who built bridges, changed Tottenham’s football and opened the door to foreigners in the Premier, in 1978, now watches with pride how one of his compatriots, Mauricio Pochettino , can finish the longest bridge in its history for the Spurs. : from Madrid to the sky.

Exceptional. Since the arrival of Mauricio, the club has changed completely. A new mentality presides over everything. It is capable of overcoming restrictions. The test is this year, in which the team reaches the final of the Champions without being able to make signings.

Mauricio is very pragmatic. I do not think that in his mind was to put English players, but players of the quarry, wherever they are. It is a priority for him. He did it at Southampton and then at Tottenham. Everyone who goes through their hands improves. The majority, today, are international. That commitment to the club as a whole is perceived in everything, in the atmosphere of the sports city, from the technicians and executives to the cleaning lady. That makes up a spirit that moves to the countryside. Maybe Tottenham sometimes does not play well, but to win we have to perspire a lot. Mauricio lives practically in the club, as soon as he knows London, he is not interested. He is like that. 100% is demanded and demands it in others

It is a Tottenham very different from the one you found, in 78.

Then, the best league in the world was the Italian one. Today, I can say that it is the Premier. For this growth, its separation from the FA, the federation, was key 10 years ago. It took off economically.

The game was also different.

The English football I came to was really another sport. It was hard, especially if you played in the middle of the field, because you saw the ball pass from one side to the other through the air. The medium was not a transit zone. From our success, more foreigners began to arrive and the clubs began to modify their game, until then incredibly physical. If you analyze today, the top five teams of the Premier, all consider the possession of the ball as something basic.

For a player like you, technically and physically small, it should not have been easy to adapt.

It is something that I often question when I look back and the conclusion is that I do not know how I could do it.

And how could he survive when the Falklands war broke out, caught between two countries?

The country in which I had been born and loved was at war with the country that had adopted me. Imagine! The conflict, moreover, broke out in 1982, at my best soccer moment. It was extraordinarily hard, with friends and even relatives involved in the war. I went to the PSG for a while, but I returned and, from there, I proposed that I had a mission, and that was to rebuild the bridges that had been broken between people from one place to another. Not only sporting, but also cultural, bridges. I do not like to talk about myself, but it is one of the things I feel most proud of.

Before the semifinals, Pochettino said that the favorite was who had Messi. Once passed, Messi is not in the final.

The capitulation of Barcelona in Anfield was very serious. I did not expect it in any way. Maybe Ajax, for being a younger team, but never Barca. The fourth goal was funny. When a team fits that way it is indicative that things are not right in there. If that happens, there are serious problems. Liverpool were above their level, despite missing Firmino and Salah, but is that in Barcelona everyone was below yours, except Vidal.

Will Tottenham find Liverpool in Madrid?

The matches are always different, but the emotions play a key role in any final, for good and for bad.

Ardiles, in a match with Tottenham in 1986.

You played with Maradona. Who are you leaning on in the debate: Messi or ‘el Diego’?

It is the eternal debate. I do not compare them, because we talk about different times. Diego played at a time when it was very risky for skilled players, because he was much tougher than the current one. I remember well the Cup final that he played with Barcelona against Athletic [1984]. If you were an unbalancing player, like Diego or Kempes, the question was not whether the defenders were going to take you off the court, but when, because it was certain that they would. Television began to change everything. Then FIFA started working to protect those who make football bigger. Today it is difficult to touch Messi or Cristiano. We do not know what Pelé or Diego would have achieved with that protection.

Maradona won the World Cup, just like you. Messi, not yet.

There have been great players who did not win the World Cup, like Eusebio, Cruyff or George Best, but they made time in big clubs. Maradona, however, led a modest team like Naples to unsuspected levels and won the World Cup. It was unrepeatable.

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