Mauricio Pochettino's methodology is best-suited at Tottenham
There are ways of illustrating what a shock it would be to football's system if Tottenham won the Premier League. One is simply to consider the context the last time they were champions. The maximum wage had just been repealed in the English game, meaning players could finally be paid more than £20 a week. The United States had just elected its first president who was born in the 20th century, John F. Kennedy.
That was 1961, 11 years before Mauricio Pochettino was born. If he ends Tottenham's 55-year wait, he will have altered the tide of history. Since then, Spurs have had 16 top-six finishes. They have been third three times, fourth on five occasions, fifth in five years and sixth at the end of three seasons, but have not finished in the top two since 1963. Meanwhile, a propensity to flatter to deceive is more pronounced. A capacity to end up in mid-table is shown by seven 10th-placed slots and a further five in 11th.
The last manager to make a club champions after a wait of a half-century was Jose Mourinho. He was then arguably the most coveted manager in the world. Chelsea's 2004-05 triumph was funded by around £220 million of spending in the previous two years. In contrast, Pochettino's four transfer windows at Tottenham have produced a profit of £6.3 million. He has ignored that staple of footballing thinking, that spending is pivotal to progress, in favour of a more organic approach.
All of which should mean that if Tottenham are crowned champions, Pochettino becomes the Premier League's hottest managerial property. And yet, perhaps strangely, he might not be. This is set to be a summer when the three clubs who have won the last 11 titles between them change managers. There is a growing probability that none of them will plump for Pochettino.
Manchester City's choice of Pep Guardiola needs no explanation. Chelsea appear to be closing in on Antonio Conte. The Manchester United job looks like a straight shootout between contrasting candidates, Ryan Giggs and Mourinho. While the Italian and the Portuguese are serial winners and the Argentine's CV has a shortage of silverware, there is something to be said for appointing a manager whose career is on an upward curve, as Pochettino's certainly is.
Should he stay put, it will reflect on more than just the sense something special is happening at White Hart Lane. He has been tipped to come into contention at both Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, but his understated approach extends into his own career. Pochettino has no agent; presumably no one is aggressively pressing his case. Perhaps they are deterred by the identity of his employers. It can be difficult to prise anyone from Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy's clutches. United had to pay a premium price to lure Michael Carrick, who was worth it, and Dimitar Berbatov, who was not, from White Hart Lane.
Yet there are also ways in which he is not a perfect fit for either Chelsea or United which, in turn, reflects on issues with their identity and warped senses of priorities at both. Player power has been a perennial problem at Stamford Bridge, where the footballers have been a constant as managers have come and gone. The Blues squad may prefer one who is a respecter of reputations, but Pochettino has rather ruthlessly disposed of some of Tottenham's bigger-name players, such as Emmanuel Adebayor and Paulinho, along with long-serving constants like Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon. A smiling persona belies his status as a steely revolutionary.
Meanwhile, United's enduring -- and at times embarrassing -- pursuit of Galacticos would seem to jar with the ethos of a manager who regards the team as the star. The closest Tottenham have to a celebrity is Harry Kane, a local who has been loaned to Leyton Orient and chases the ball in the manner of an amiable family dog pursuing a bone. Pochettino's biggest buys at his two English clubs have been Dani Osvaldo, who he exiled at Southampton after the striker headbutted Jose Fonte in training, and Heung-Min Son, whose Tottenham career has been less explosive but does not command a place in Pochettino's strongest side. He may be bemused by the kind of clubs who now like to flaunt their wealth with extravagant spending. The idea of a statement signing appears to have little traction with him. He does not judge players by their price tag.
Instead, his is a chairman-friendly brand of management that suits a cost-conscious man like Levy. The Pochettino methodology has an obvious appeal to any mid-table club; in saner times, it would to their supposed superiors, too.
Pochettino has changed the culture of a club. He has displayed a faith in youth which has long been a hallmark of United's and which, if Chelsea's prodigious academy system is ever to produce another first-team regular, may be required. He has also produced the fittest team in England. Beyond basic principles, there are welcome and subtle signs of improvement in his management. His Southampton side lost too many leads. This Tottenham team had gained 17 points from losing positions by the end of February.
They conceded more goals than relegated Hull last season. Prompted by the catalytic signing of Toby Alderweireld, they have the best defensive record in the division now. Pochettino has engineered improvement elsewhere. Mousa Dembele has belatedly played to his considerable potential, Erik Lamela finally shown why he was considered a £30 million footballer.
He has engineered improvement without breaking the bank. A midfield upgrade was accomplished by converting Eric Dier to occupy the holding role, paired with either the rejuvenated Dembele or remarkable teenager Dele Alli. A phalanx of players -- Kane, Alli, Dier, Dembele, Lamela, Alderweireld, Danny Rose -- look better under Pochettino's management than they ever did for anyone else. So, too, did Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Jay Rodriguez and Calum Chambers at Southampton. The common denominator is the coach. His points-per-game record gets better by the years. So do his sides.
Now Tottenham's progress and prowess have been obscured by Leicester's engaging upstarts, although the sense it that Pochettino prefers it that way. If 21st-century football is supposed to be an all-encompassing part of the entertainment industry, his interviews certainly aren't box-office affairs. He might not capture imaginations worldwide or prompt an influx of commercial partners, or fit images of charismatic, quotable omnipotent managers the superclubs often desire, but he is a low-key high achiever whose feats have been built on sound principles. That suits Tottenham perfectly. Should he become a title winner, the only surprise will be their rivals were too slow to recognise that.
Richard Jolly is a football writer for ESPN, The Guardian, The National, The Observer, the Straits Times and the Sunday Express.