Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that Moussa Sissoko initially wanted to leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer in a bid to enhance his 2018 World Cup prospects, but was happy to hand the player a second chance to impress after a lack of interest seemingly wrecked those exit hopes.
Sissoko was derided as a major flop after making just eight Premier League starts for Spurs following a club-record equalling £30m ($40m) deadline day transfer from Newcastle United and it was reported that the club were already willing to cut their losses on the French midfielder after what he admitted was the worst season of his career to date.
Marseille were briefly said to be willing to take Sissoko back to Ligue 1, while Valencia were linked with a late swoop for his services after talk of a surprise loan move to Turkish side Trabzonspor.
There were also rumours that Everton, gazumped by Tottenham last year, were ready to seal a temporary deal of their own.
However, none of those moves ever came to fruition and the 28-year-old has since gone onto start six of Tottenham's first nine matches across all competitions in 2017-18, with fellow midfielders Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele dealing with knee and ankle injuries respectively. He appeared as a substitute in the other three.
"But that is the same for another player that didn't play too much last season. Every player that maybe wasn't involved too much in my plans last season, all the players try to play more," Pochettino was quoted as saying by football.london when asked if he could have accepted an offer for Sissoko during the most recent transfer window.
"And I am so honest with you, the player [Sissoko] was the first interested to move or to leave because he wanted to play more in a season that has the World Cup at the end. But I think maybe that possibility didn't exist and I was more than happy for him to stay and give him the possibility to play."
He added: "It's always a decision between the player and the club and for him, in this case, he didn't play too much last season or not play all that he wanted to play, and always the player is looking to move, to try to feel better and try to be important, maybe at another club.
"And always the club is sensitive in every single situation but in the end, when we decided to keep him and he decided to stay with us, it's about moving on and seeing if he deserves to have the possibility to play."
Pochettino claimed there was obvious pressure on Sissoko given his sizable transfer fee and conceded that he arrived at White Hart Lane in a poor condition - through no fault of his own - after being denied a proper pre-season following France's run to the final of Euro 2016.
He further insisted that his relationship with the former Toulouse stalwart had always remained positive, despite suggestions to the contrary, and that now Sissoko had grown in confidence and understands better what Tottenham expect from him.