TURIN, Italy — Mauricio Pochettino says the “door is open” for Ryan Mason to return to Tottenham after he announced his retirement as a player on Tuesday.
The club’s former midfielder, who joined Hull City in summer 2016, was forced to retire aged 26 after suffering a fractured skull against Chelsea in January 2017, and the Spurs fans sang, “There’s only one Ryan Mason” during the 2-2 draw with Juventus in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg in Turin.
Speaking after the game, Pochettino hinted that Mason could return to the club in some capacity and said the former England international, who made 70 appearances under the Argentine from September 2014, would be a success at whatever he decides to do next.
“In the last few days he was at the training ground and we were talking a lot with the coaching staff and Ryan and [head of coaching and development] John McDermott,” Pochettino said.
“It’s a very sad news but at the same time he opened a massive door with his future for him and his family. He’s 26 but he’s an amazing person and a football brain.
“He was a very successful player and he will be a very successful person and everything he wants to do, he’s going to do. He will always be a special player for me because he represents the change in all the processes when we arrived at Tottenham.
“For me, Ryan is a player that will always be special. And of course, the door is open to help him, from myself, us, the coaching staff. Because we love him, and we love Rachel [his girlfriend], George [his son] and all his family. Don’t worry Ryan, you’re going to be a successful person outside the pitch! No doubt about it.”
Mason came through the ranks at Spurs but his progress was hampered by a series of injuries and unsuccessful loan spells before Pochettino’s appointment in summer 2014.
The Argentine gave Mason, then 23, his debut as a substitute in Spurs’ League Cup match over Nottingham Forest in September 2014 and the midfielder scored a brilliant long-range equaliser after just six minutes.
Spurs went on to win the game 3-1 and Pochettino handed Mason a full debut in the north London derby against Arsenal three days later, which finished 1-1.
“I remember very well how we found him,” Pochettino explained. “The first day in the gym he was sitting, head down and so sad. I asked Jesus [Perez, assistant manager] ‘Who is this guy?’ He said, ‘Ryan Mason — in the last five seasons, he was always on loan but never played because of injuries.’
“It was difficult from the beginning for him to cope with the training sessions, they’re very tough. We travelled to America [in preseason] and I met him in the airport and after 30 minutes we shared, I said to Jesus, ‘Wow, I love Ryan. I don’t know if he plays well or not but I love as a man!’
“The first game we played against Seattle [Sounders], he understood everything. After only a few training sessions, he understood everything. What another player needs a year to understand — the tactics, the movement, the concepts. I said we have a very good player. He started to show great quality in training.
“When we decided to put him in against Arsenal, we said to John McDermott, ‘You’re responsible too! You think he can he cope with the pressure!’ John McDermott said, ‘Yes of course, if he plays he is going to give his best’.”
Dan is ESPN FC’s Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.