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Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino praises inspirational Aaron Lennon

LONDON -- Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has described the club's former player Aaron Lennon as an inspiration for speaking publicly about his mental health problems.

Pochettino ended Lennon's decade-long stay at Spurs by allowing him to join Saturday's opponents Everton, initially on loan, in February 2015, eight months after the Argentine had joined the club.

In May last year, Lennon, 30, was detained under the Mental Health Act amid concerns over his welfare, when he was found by police near a busy motorway in Salford.

The former England international received treatment for a stress-related illness before returning to training two months later, and he has since urged people to "speak out" about mental illness, saying "it's great and good to talk."

"When a public person like Aaron is talking so openly to the media, to the fans, to the people, it is always very helpful to many people who might have the same problem but it's impossible to see," Pochettino said of Lennon, who remains a popular figure among Spurs fans ahead of Everton's visit to Wembley.

"The fact Aaron spoke publicly about the issue can inspire people around he world, not only in football, through him or through his behaviour, to get some help," continued Pochettino, who chose to speak in Spanish while his assistant Jesus Perez translated.

Aaron Lennon
Aaron Lennon will face his former team on Saturday.

"Because Aaron spoke publicly that there are a lot of people ready to help people with temporary mental [health] issues, it's good for him to get the love from the fans and inspire people to get the same help and talk about it."

Asked if mental health issues were a wider issue in the game, Pochettino said: "Not only in football, [but] in general society [too]. But not everybody is strong enough to talk publicly about their own situation."

Lennon -- who scored in a 1-1 draw with Spurs in January 2016 and is expected to feature on Saturday -- made just three league starts under Pochettino, with his best performance coming against the Toffees in a 2-1 win in November 2014.

"He was good. He was always respectful and professional -- there's nothing to say," Pochettino added. "From the beginning he played -- my first game he was in the starting XI -- and little by little I trusted in different players and then we changed the style of play of Tottenham and then started to use [Erik] Lamela and [Christian] Eriksen in his position.

"He left because of the style, of course. And then when a player is for a long period at the club [where] he played for nine or 10 years, the player needed a different motivation and challenge. Sometimes you want players to stay but the player says, 'no, gaffer I need to change, I need to wear different colours.'

"Everyone needs that. That is the problem sometimes. The players need new challenges, like managers or maybe you [in the media] change newspapers or websites? We are human. It's not always about money or playing. They need new motivation and challenges."

It was then suggested to Pochettino that he has said Harry Kane could stay at Spurs for his entire career.

"Ah but like I told you Harry is special. It's not the profile of a typical offensive player -- he is special," Pochettino replied. "I always say to him, you can play as a keeper, a centre-back and midfielder because his mentality makes him different.

"The mentality is amazing that's why I told you he can spend his career in one club -- like [Roma legend Francesco] Totti. That is my opinion."

Pochettino also said that he did not expect the club to make any signings this month, and reiterated that it is "so difficult" to buy the right players midseason.

Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.

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