Belfast Telegraph

Mauricio Pochettino happy to have given Moussa Sissoko a second Tottenham chance

Mauricio Pochettino admits Tottenham were open to offers for Moussa Sissoko last summer as the midfielder wanted to boost his chances of representing France at the World Cup.

Sissoko could not find a buyer, however, and has instead enjoyed an encouraging start to his second season under Pochettino, offering hope he can put behind him a disappointing opening campaign.

After joining for a club-record £30million on the last day of the transfer window, Sissoko struggled to adjust last year and the 28-year-old went on to make only eight starts in the Premier League.

He has posted four already this term, four months after telling L'Equipe he hoped Tottenham would allow him to leave following the "worst season of his career". Pochettino concedes he was also prepared to cut his losses.

"That is the same for any player that didn't play too much last season," Pochettino said.

"Every player that maybe wasn't involved too much in my plans last season, all the players try to play more.

"And I am so honest with you, the player [Sissoko] was the first [one] interested to move or to leave because he wanted to play more in a season that has the World Cup at the end.

"But I think maybe that possibility didn't exist and I was more than happy for him to stay and give him the possibility to play."

Sissoko's chances of adjusting to Pochettino's specific style was not helped by his arrival from Newcastle on September 1, when he had already missed the entirety of Tottenham's pre-season.

He then received a three-match ban in October for elbowing Bournemouth's Harry Arter and after a slow start, Sissoko never caught up.

"When we signed him it was a record for the club and the expectations from the fans, media, everyone, is massive and the condition that he arrived was a poor one," Pochettino said.

"Not because it was his fault, it was the circumstances of football - no pre-season after the Euros, he wanted to leave from a club that was in the Championship and you arrive on the first of September when the team is so fit.

"He was playing in a different competition and it is never easy to fit and settle from the first moment and then he struggled to play because there is a pressure of the transfer fee and it is so difficult.

"Zinedine Zidane struggled in Real Madrid when he moved from Juventus - big, big names struggle in the first season. It is normal sometimes."

Tottenham visit Huddersfield on Saturday and Sissoko is again likely to start.

He has found himself more involved this season, in part due to injuries, with Mousa Dembele, Victor Wanyama and Erik Lamela all currently sidelined, but also because he is enjoying a more influential role in the side.

Pochettino has deployed him either in central midfield alongside Eric Dier or on the right side of a diamond, where Sissoko's athleticism and direct running have proven useful.

It was his cut-back that laid on Harry Kane's second of three goals against Apoel Nicosia on Tuesday.

"Today, what is happening is he is more confident in his skills and himself and the team-mates trust more in him," Pochettino said.

"He improved his self-belief and that is so important for a player.

"When you arrive in a new club and you don't play too much and you struggle to understand, it is normal that your self-belief starts to go down and then it is so difficult to recover from that.

"But today we are so happy and he is happy that he is doing well."

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