Mauricio Pochettino will be under no illusions as to how difficult it’s going to be for Tottenham to keep hold of Dele Alli.
The 21-year-old has now won PFA Player of the Year for the second season running and is expected to attract plenty of suitors in the upcoming transfer window.
Barcelona legend Xavi – an ally of Pep Guardiola – alluded to that earlier this week, when he suggested, via the Sun, that Manchester City would make a world record bid for the playmaker this summer.
Pochettino has not taken kindly to those comments and has repeatedly insisted that his best players are not up for sale.
In his press conference ahead of the trip to Crystal Palace on Wednesday night, the Spurs boss – half-joking, perhaps – insisted that Xavi has an ulterior motive for trying to upset the Lilywhites’ camp.
“He’s in a period when he loves to talk, he’s in Doha [playing for Al Sadd] and listen, he was Barcelona player, he’s my enemy,” he said.
“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona – player, fans, you know.
“I know him [Xavi] very well, I played against him a lot and when I was a manager [at Espanyol].”
Pochettino always jumps at the opportunity to recall moments of his playing career, and it seems he still hasn’t quite forgiven Xavi for an incident in 2009.
Barca beat Pochettino’s Espanyol 1-0 courtesy of a dubious penalty, and the Argentine recalled:
“He [Xavi] fell down, it wasn’t a penalty, but Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game.
“The marking man was Raul Baena, Xavi fell down and said ‘penalty’, they gave a penalty.
“After, in the video, it was very funny because no one touched him and everyone in the media was saying no, no trust me – it was a penalty. Come on. It goes from lie to lie to lie.
“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”
Alli has now reached 20 goals in all competitions this season, double his tally for last term. And as the midfielder continues to get better and better, this is unlikely to be the last attack Pochettino is going to have to ward off.