Mauricio Pochettino insists Tottenham’s medical staff followed concussion protocols after Jan Vertonghen was allowed to return to the field despite suffering a serious-looking head injury in the Champions League semi-final loss to Ajax.
The defender has since been given the all-clear by Spurs, who say he has not suffered a concussion, and walked unaided out of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after his side lost the first leg 1-0.
But questions remain over the first-half incident against Vertonghen‘s former club Ajax on Tuesday, when a clash of heads with team-mate Toby Alderweireld left him bloodied and in need of treatment.
Dawn Astle, daughter of former West Brom and England forward Jeff who died in 2002 of a degenerative brain disease, expressed her shock on Twitter accompanied with images of a bloodied Vertonghen laying on the pitch, saying: “I literally cannot believe what I’ve just seen.”
Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz spoke to Spurs’ medical staff before allowing the defender to return to the field, only for the 32-year-old to quickly go off again.
Pochettino had to put his arm around him to help keep the groggy defender up, before he was carried away after appearing to retch by the touchline.
A Spurs official told Press Association Sport after the match that the defender was fine and had passed all concussion tests, although Vertonghen will have more assessments over the coming days.
Tottenham boss Pochettino said: “I wasn’t involved. I wasn’t involved. It was the doctor’s decision.
“I think it’s so important things, the rules and the protocol are there, and our medical staff follow the protocol.
“I was never involved. The decision was the doctor and the referee asked.
“He goes in. In the next action, we need to put him out because he didn’t feel well.”
Pochettino said the medical staff will always be the “boss” in such situations and that he would have made the change sooner had he been instructed to as a player’s health is always key.
Asked how Vertonghen is now, the Tottenham manager said: “He’s OK, he is good, he was walking away. He was more relaxed. I hope it is not a big injury or a big issue.
“I don’t know (what the latest is). He was walking away from the stadium now. I hope he is well.
“You know very well you need to keep eyes watching him and analysing him because it was a big knock. But I hope it is not a big issue. At the moment, it is OK.”