BY MAURICIO POCHETTINO

I’m sorry it has come to this, Étienne. Sometimes you have to choose between what is right and what is easy, and God knows I wish you didn’t have to be this wrong. In a different reality, we could have been friends.

But this is Tottenham Hotspur, and if it must come down to a battle between you and I, then there can only be one victor. Mauricio.

I’ve relished our encounters. They’ve made me stronger. But after your performances this year, there is little option for me.

I’ve had other battles with greater opponents. Kaboul, Adebayor. But besting them proved too easy, too routine. There was no joy in my victory. But with you, oh, how much I’ve enjoyed destroying you. Watching you train with the youth team. Seeing you converse with your fellow countrymen conspiratorially in French never knowing that I could understand every word. Reaching down into the very depths of your soul, taking away that which you love most – your precious wage packet – and putting it towards the first team Christmas party, knowing full well that you would not be there.

So now we come to the end game. Mr. Levy won’t save you like he did Emmanuel. You don’t earn enough for him to care. But he can still recoup your value at the very least. Probably make a tiny profit shifting you on to West Brom or something. But leave knowing this: I own you Étienne. You are mine. You will always be mine.