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Exclusive: Pochettino considering Tottenham future as Real Madrid prepare to replace Zidane

Mauricio Pochettino is being eyed by Real Madrid this summer.

Mauricio Pochettino is considering leaving Tottenham Hotspur for Real Madrid at the end of this season. Madrid president Florentino Perez has been preparing to replace Zinedine Zidane as coach should the Frenchman fail to retain the Champions League and has made his interest in hiring Pochettino clear.

Perez – angered by a LaLiga campaign in which Madrid lag 15 points behind leaders Barcelona with five games to play – is also conscious of the possibility that Zidane may elect to voluntarily step down from a position he’s held since January 2016 even if he leads the club to a third straight European title. According to Madrid sources, Pochettino is the preferred candidate to succeed Zidane.

Pochettino began his managerial career in the Spanish league with Espanyol. In his sixth season in English football, the former Argentina international is highly regarded for his work at first Southampton and then Tottenham. Although still to lift silverware as a coach, the 46-year-old is on course to qualify the London club for a third consecutive Champions League campaign, finished second in the Premier League last season, and reached the 2015 League Cup Final.

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His Tottenham contract runs until 2021 with chairman Daniel Levy keen on a further extension. Pochettino is known for taking a long-term, relatively low-risk approach to his career, stepping back from interest from Manchester United in 2016 as he was conscious of the scale of the task involved in rebuilding one of the world’s two largest football clubs. Working at Madrid, however, has been a long-held ambition.

Mauricio Pochettino’s trophy cabinet remains bare at Tottenham

While Tottenham made significant progress in winning a Champions League group containing Madrid and Borussia Dortmund this season, Pochettino’s team have failed to build on recent strong Premier League campaigns and currently lie fourth in the division. The future of a host of a key players is in doubt with their wages significantly below market value and there will once again be no silverware this season as a result of Saturday’s semi-final loss to Manchester United.

Following that 2-1 defeat Pochettino repeatedly mentioned his own future at Tottenham in a series of media interviews. “Everyone feels that we are close, we are close, it is nearly to touch,” he said. “But I think it is the only way to reach this last level, that will allow you not just to compete, but to win. Over the last four years we are building a very good team, trying to create the winning mentality, but at the moment it is not enough.

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“I think Tottenham need to keep going in this direction, and to create that winning mentality is not about a few years. Tottenham need more time, with me or with another.

“We are now competitive, but to win a trophy, that is not easy. For me now the most important thing is to finish in the top four and play in the Champions League. We have played the whole season at Wembley; that is stressful not only for the team, but for the fans. You have to keep going. I am disappointed. When the game ended I was very frustrated, but quickly I move on. I am thinking of finishing the season in the right way.”

Contacted by Yahoo Sport this morning, Tottenham declined to comment.