Lionel Messi came close to joining Espanyol, claims Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino

The Spurs boss was discussing the capture of Dele Alli when he revealed the move

Mauricio Pochettino has revealed how close he came to working with Lionel Messi.

The Tottenham head coach, whose team on Saturday strengthened their pursuit of qualification for the Champions League with a 3-1 Barclays Premier League victory at Crystal Palace, continues to enhance his reputation as a nurturer of talent every time Spurs perform.

Dele Alli provided the latest demonstration of that with a world-class volley that effectively secured all three points, but asked about how close the midfielder came to instead joining Liverpool, Pochettino - who played for Espanyol for two years to 2006 and was appointed manager in 2009 when Messi was approaching his peak - responded: "Do you know how many players in football are close to signing for many clubs?

"Dele Alli, it's impossible to speak about that because maybe different clubs were close to signing Dele Alli. Dele Alli is now here.

"We were close at Espanyol to signing Lionel Messi but this was true.

"A centimetre (away), unbelievable but this was true, maybe Dele wasn't true but this was.

"Messi was 17 years old (in the 2004/05 season), playing under-18s and was very close to signing for Espanyol. It was close but it never happened.

"In football it's always 'if, if, if' but it's about reality, it's not about maybe what could have happened."

Had Messi joined Espanyol, it is possible Pochettino would have both played alongside and managed the Argentina forward, and also that the head coach's son Sebastiano would have worked with him, after he joined Pochettino on Spurs' bench on Saturday.

"Not the first time, in Germany too in the Audi Cup he was on the bench but he is a sports scientist," Pochettino Snr said.

"He loves Tottenham and all the players because he has a very good relationship with them but the players don't see him as my son, he's Sebastiano and this is the important thing. I know some say 'He's the gaffer's son' but the players trust him.

"Maybe one day he works for me or maybe for another manager, we'll see."

The defeat was Palace's third in succession, but after praising Alli's outstanding goal, Pardew spoke of his emergence as proof England is producing talented young players, and also reiterated his desire to recruit a striker before the conclusion of the transfer window.

"We've produced a lot of good English players recently," he said. "It was only 18 months ago we were all moaning, 'Where is the new talent? Are our academies suppressing them, etc?'

"Suddenly we have an abundance of talent: (Alex Oxlade) Chamberlain, (Theo) Walcott, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, (Jamie) Vardy. Suddenly we've got a lot of pace and energy.

"There's seven days from Monday (to sign a new striker), so me and Steve (Parish, Palace's chairman) are going to look at that very closely and we hope to bring someone in.

"(Emmanuel Adebayor) is one of those. Nicklas Bendtner? We're looking at all good strikers."

PA

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