If there is one managerial rivalry in modern football that has surpassed all unpleasant barriers and violent bounds is the one between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. One can argue about Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger or, more recently, Jurgen Klopp and Pep but the shards of hostility were too pointy and poisonous between Pep and Mourinho.
Let’s wind our clocks back to 2010 when Mourinho was appointed as Real Madrid’s manager with the sole task of knocking the majestic Barcelona under Pep off their perch. But his tenure was off to a shaky start after Pep’s Barcelona, headlined by the likes of Lionel Messi, David Villa, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and Carles Puyol, massacred them at Camp Nou with a 5-0 victory.
Pepe and Sergio Ramos were the usual suspects and were red-carded the most after their violent fouls on the Catalans, while Mourinho laughed from the sidelines. It was carnal madness. Mourinho wanted to hurt Barcelona both on and off the pitch. During his press conferences, he would single-handedly point out Pep’s shortcomings and criticize any aspects of Barcelona’s footballing style. He wanted to rattle Pep, get him out of his bubble, and retaliate to his mean and war-worthy comments.
And Pep, who usually avoided response, eventually gave in at a press conference of the Champions League where he responded to Mourinho’s verbal attacks and mentioned that he and his team do all the talking on the pitch.
Mourinho knew Barcelona had a better squad than Real Madrid at the time and if he was to win the league or get the better of them at every turn, he needs to get Pep and his team all riled up for the wrong reasons and make them suffer mentally. And no matter how much Mourinho denies it, his cunning plan came to fruition.
In a podcast titled ‘The Overlap’ with Gary Neville, Barcelona’s centre-back, Gerard Pique confirmed that Mourinho had a big role in Pep Guardiola’s exit in 2012, among other reasons.
“(The rivalry between) Guardiola and Mourinho, here in Spain, was very tough,” Pique told Gary Neville on The Overlap.” It was a shock of reality. But it’s true that Mourinho, in the press conference every time, he was every day… you know how he is, his style. And I think that Guardiola, at some point, it was too much (for him). At the end of the day, Guardiola left because at some point, and Mourinho at Madrid won the league that year, and all of a sudden he decided to leave for so many reasons, but I’m sure that part of it is that, with Mourinho, it was too much.”
Pique also mentioned that Pep only wanted to focus on the game and stay out of the unnecessary media attention brought on to him by Mourinho’s incessant verbal diarrhoea.
As per Pique who was completely candid in the interview with Gary Neville, the seeds of hatred were planted by Mourinho in the Real Madrid players who were told one and one thing only by him: These Barcelona players hate you and if you don’t hate them back, you’ll never win. And thus began a series of violent acts, every time Los Blancos took the field against the Blaugrana.
Pep wanted to be a footballing wizard, aiming to build a legacy without a nemesis, but Mourinho turned into Voldemort and made sure that Pep didn’t have his way.
“It’s not important how we play. If you have a Ferrari and I have a small car, to beat you, I have to break your wheel or put sugar in your tank.” This sums up Mourinho in his own words who has taken AS Roma into the inaugural Conference League final but considering overall statistics, it is Pep who has got the better of Mourinho by a significant margin.
But while Pep waits for a Champions League trophy with someone other than Barcelona, Mourinho is slowly dusting off his two European titles with Inter Milan and FC Porto.