You could, we suppose, call them ‘The Best of Enemies’. Two elite football managers that can’t seem to avoid each other. For the second time in their lives, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola find themselves in charge of clubs with a fierce, fierce rivalry. And it’s pretty safe to say, there’s very little love between the two of them. Lost or found.
Both men spent years toiling away for Barcelona Football Club. Both men are the very embodiment of studied, measured coolness. Both men are also passionate, obsessive types prone to losing that cool with only a little encouragement. And one of the easiest ways to set them off? Each other.
Alright, alright – so they’re not exactly likely to come to blows when their two Manchester clubs meet at the Etihad on Thursday night. But nor are they likely to share a bottle of Rioja or Port afterwards. The two aren’t pals. And there are plenty of reasons why not. Let’s look back over some of the games that defined the combustible relationship between Señor Guardiola and Senhor Mourinho, shall we…?
Mourinho Stamps His Mark
The Special One’s achieved plenty in the game. That’s why he gave himself that moniker. His crowning glory? Porto’s Champions League win? Maybe. That Premier League title on his Chelsea return? Perhaps. But for us it’s the 2009/10 treble he managed at Inter Milan. And en route to that? Schooling Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and demolishing them 3-1 in the semi-final of the Champions League. It was a stellar performance from Internazionale and Jose let everyone know. He described it afterwards as the club’s “best game of the last fifty years.” The big show off.
Guardiola Takes Sweet Revenge
Point proven in Italy, Mourinho thumbed his former paymasters at Camp Nou by signing on the dotted line Real Madrid. El Clasico didn’t take long to roll around for the first time and when it did? Pep took revenge in the finest way imaginable. His men trounced Real. 5-0 sounds like a thumping, but it could have been even worse. The team in white barely touched the ball and it was to be one of the finest examples of the unique brand of ‘Tiki-Taka‘ football that Guardiola’s Barca would come to be so synonymous with.
One in the Eye for Tito
Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid. You may recognise that scoreline from last Sunday’s breathless and epic El Clasico. It was also the score when the two La Liga giants met in the 2011 Spanish Supercup final second leg. But whereas this recent meeting will be remembered for Lionel Messi’s brilliant last second winner, the earlier fixture goes down as ‘That Game When Jose Mourinho Poked The Late Tito Vilanova In The Eye’. Jabbing Pep’s poor number two in the peeper was childish, aggressive, unnecessary and indicative of just how nasty the relationship between the two big bosses had gotten. Luckily for Pep though, his eye was out of reach.
To the Portuguese manager’s credit, he did apologise afterwards, holding his hands up. Luckily his digits made no ocular contact that time around.
A War of Words
Another Champions League semi-final, another nasty lead-up. Usually, the slightly more mild-mannered Spaniard is happy to let his counterpart sound off in interviews and during press conferences, but in the lead up to the Real Madrid Vs. Barcelona CL semi-final of 2011? Guardiola finally cracked. Barca went on to win the game 2-0, but it was Pep’s pre-match tirade to the gathered media in the press room at the Bernabeu that really shocked the world of football and showed the depth of the ill-feeling between the two men…
“As Mourinho has spoken so candidly about me and spoken about me by name, then I will do the same,” Guardiola said, bristling. “In this room, he is the chief, the f***ing man. In here he is the f***ing man and I can’t compete with him. If Barcelona want someone who competes with that, then they should look for another manager. But we, as a person and an institution, don’t do that. We worked together for four years. He knows me, I know him and that’s all. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth when someone you had a relationship with does what he has done to me.”
A First Meeting in the Premier League
As we’ve seen, Mourinho and Guardiola have faced each other many times. They’re probably keeping score in their heads, sure. But for British battles, it’s finely poised at one game each. United beat City in the EFL Cup this season after Pep threw out a dead rubber XI. So our only real indicator of what might happen this Thursday night? The only Premier League meeting between the two foes. Saturday 10th September 2016. Old Trafford. A fully-deserved 2-1 win for the Citizens. Goals from Iheanacho and de Bruyne and a consolation from Zlatan after a mistake by Claudio Bravo saw first blood to the Catalan…
Can Jose even the score a little this week? Or will Guardiola win another mental battle and pull a little further away from his fierce rival in the table? Let’s wait and see.