Tottenham defender Juan Foyth has said the opportunity to learn from Mauricio Pochettino, a fellow Argentinian centre-back, was the main reason he joined the north Londoners instead of Paris Saint-Germain.
The 21-year-old, who has been added to Spurs’ Champions League squad ahead of Wednesday’s round-of-16 showdown against Borussia Dortmund, was close to joining PSG from Estudiantes in August 2017 but changed his destination.
“More than anything I decided on Tottenham because there was an Argentinian manager and support team — or they can speak Spanish — and because it was a club that supported young players a lot,” Foyth said. “Also, I had the chance to talk to Mauricio and he told me I had very good features but that he was going to improve that.
“He was a defender as well so I thought he might have very good recommendations and advice to give me.”
Foyth said he was particularly grateful for Pochettino’s experience and guidance when he conceded two penalties at Wolves on his Premier League debut in November.
“He told me it’s a situation he had been in,” the youngster, who joined in with an Argentinian-themed assembly at Chestnuts Primary School in Tottenham on Friday and helped the students to learn Spanish, while also assisting with a PE lesson, said. “It happens, so I think he could understand in that sense because he’d been out there, in that same position as me.
“He always supports us and this gives you confidence to go forward and keep working. It’s really, really nice. I think I’ve improved in my skills as a defender every day, because I haven’t been playing as a defender very long.”
Foyth initially played further upfield in Estudiantes’ academy and has shown glimpses of his ability on the ball at Tottenham. He won a penalty in his last appearance at Crystal Palace, although Kieran Trippier missed the spot-kick and Spurs lost the FA Cup tie 2-0.
“I started playing as an attacking midfielder but as time went by I grew taller, because I was quite short, and maybe I lost a bit of the dribbling ability I had,” he said. “That’s why gradually I was moved to a defensive midfielder and then ended up as a central defender when I was 16. It’s late, no?
“At the time I was happy because when we played small-sized games I always said, ‘I’m Rio Ferdinand’. Then when I started to play there it was hard because I didn’t touch the ball much — but after a few games it was normal and I enjoyed it.
“Maybe it’s given me a bit more confidence on the ball. But the problem is that when I played in midfield I wanted to take the ball every time, so maybe I have to be careful.
“I looked up to Rio Ferdinand very much. I used to like his physical strength. Another player I used to watch a lot was Lucio — I paid attention to his style. When I was younger, Kaka was my idol because I played a bit more forward and he played in the same position.”
Foyth, whose father has joined him in England but whose fiancée, mother and sister still live in Argentina, was omitted from Spurs’ squad list for the Champions League group stage due to a cap on the number of non-locally trained players allowed.
But he accepted his manager’s decision and is now grateful to have the chance to face Dortmund, having replaced Mousa Dembele in the squad.
“He explained it to me and I understood, because perhaps it was necessary to have another player in my position,” Foyth said. “I also understood that there’s a hierarchy in the club and among the players, and I have to earn my position there.
“It’s a great joy to me [to be included now]. It’s always something really beautiful to be playing these final stages of the competition.”
Foyth is targeting more opportunities at international level as well as with Spurs, having made his debut for Argentina in November — and he hopes to team up with Lionel Messi one day.
“It would be a dream,” he said. “I trained with him when I played for the under-20s. We trained between the U20s and the first team.
“It was unbelievable. It was just training so it was more calm but he was still dribbling past players when he wants. He’s a great player.”
Foyth was speaking after helping Tottenham Hotspur to deliver the Premier League Primary Stars programme – an initiative providing PE support to teachers by giving them confidence and knowledge about how to deliver quality physical activity and sport lessons.
Club staff spend one day a week in schools across the community delivering the programme.