Mauricio Pochettino has backed Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks to become a “perfect” midfielder but only if he learns to play through pain.
The 22-year-old is on the comeback from a serious ankle injury which required surgery over the summer and curtailed his blossoming career.
Winks, who signed a new contract in the summer, had made a promising start in the Spurs first team and was rewarded with an international call-up for England in 2017 before injury struck in the early part of 2018.
He has made three substitute appearances this season and is now closing in on a start ahead of Tottenham’s game with Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday.
“Harry has all the profile of the perfect midfielder,” Pochettino said. “But I don’t want to talk too much and praise him because if so his head [grows big].
“His perception will be, ‘Wow’ and the reality is, ‘You still need to improve’.
“The characteristics are perfect to play football. When we talk about midfielders – because you like to use Spanish midfielders like Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta – he’s like this type of player, this capacity but please he needs to take in a very positive way my words.
“Football is his focus, not business that is around football. Maybe [if he learns this] he will arrive to play in a very good level and be one of the best midfielders in England.
“It is not my advice it is only how I describe the reality. If he wants to take it, take it. If people don’t want to take it’s not [that] we can help. But of course his potential is to be a very, very good player for England and Tottenham, first for Tottenham and then if England believe that he can help them for England too.”
“If you ask all the players today, it is impossible to play without pain in some point of your body.
“You use your body for work. You push your body from a very young age. It is not a healthy sport and you always try to push your body and touch and cross the limits sometimes.
“For him, it was new. He had a serious operation last summer and of course that is something that will always be there.
“The psychology is that you have suffered and are not free. You need to learn to live with this situation and he is now much better and stronger in his mentality.
“I am sure he will make a step up. It is only time to get to his best for the team.”