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‘It’s not about Jose vs Pep’: Mourinho preaches peace ahead of latest clash with Guardiola - but rivalry has been an explosive one

‘It’s not about Jose vs Pep’: Mourinho preaches peace ahead of latest clash with Guardiola - but rivalry has been an explosive one
Jose Mourinho has played down any notion of lingering hostilities with Pep Guardiola as the Portuguese prepares his Tottenham team to face Manchester City, but the past decade has seen some combustible clashes between the pair.

While Lionel Messi against Cristiano Ronaldo is seen as the defining individual rivalry of our time on the pitch, Mourinho versus Guardiola is arguably the managerial equivalent, given the frequency and intensity with which the two have crossed swords over more than a decade.

That rivalry enters a new phase as Mourinho faces off against Guardiola for the first time as Spurs boss on Sunday, as the London club host Man City in the Premier League.

It will be the 23rd managerial meeting between the pair, whose association is a long one, stemming from their days at Barcelona in the 1990s, when Guardiola was a senior player and Mourinho an assistant coach.

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As the story goes, the pair forged a bond through their shared obsession with the tactical aspects of the game – a link which would later unravel spectacularly when Mourinho and Guardiola became managers in their own rights. 

But approaching Sunday’s meeting, Mourinho, 57, said that it had never been about “Pep versus Jose,” but more the teams they managed.  

“I remember more the three years that we fought on the same side [at Barcelona], working together in the same club and sharing the space of the work every day for three years,” Mourinho said.

“I remember more that than what people can think about rivalry. Then, of course, Barcelona and Real Madrid [matches as managers], Inter [Milan] and Barcelona in the Champions League, City and United, now Tottenham and City.

“But again, no Jose and Pep, clubs, teams. And that’s one more chapter, it’s a new chapter for us because it’s the first time Tottenham against Manchester City with us.”

Shorn of any hint of belligerence, those words were very much in keeping with the new, less edgy persona Mourinho has adopted since taking over at Spurs in November.

But make no bones about it – this is still a man relentlessly driven by the pursuit of trophies, an obsession that has seen his rivalry with the similarly intense Guardiola explode frequently down the years.  

A DECADE OF RIVALRY  

Indeed, so intertwined have the pair’s fates been that Barcelona came close to offering Mourinho a job as head coach back in 2008, before opting for Guardiola.  

The Portuguese, already a proven winner having claimed the Champions League title with Porto and Premier League with Chelsea,  was out of work having left Stamford Bridge and was a frontrunner among the Barca hierarchy for the post vacated by Frank Rijkaard.

Instead of ‘The Special One’, however, Barca president Joan Laporta opted for Guardiola – a playing legend at the club but an untested coach still learning his trade at with Barca B.

Mourinho subsequently joined Inter Milan, but the snub from his former side seemed to leave a lasting mark, a simmering resentment that erupted frequently in his managerial encounters with the Catalans in the ensuing years.

The first Guardiola-Mourinho head-to-head came when the Portuguese managed Inter against Barcelona in the 2009-10 Champions League. 

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The teams met twice in the group stage, yielding four points for Barcelona, and Guardiola’s team – who were defending champions – were favorites again when the teams met at the semi-final stage.

But Inter won the home game 3-1 and heroically held out with 10 men in the second leg at the Nou Camp after the dismissal of Thiago Motta. Gerard Pique snatched a goal back late on, but Inter prevailed in what was hailed as a defensive, backs-to-the-wall masterclass from Mourinho, who ran onto the Nou Camp pitch with a finger raised in celebration at the final whistle.

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Inter would later beat Bayern Munich in the final, handing Mourinho his second Champions League triumph.

BARCELONA VS REAL

That, though, was merely the appetizer for what would follow when Mourinho left Inter to join Real Madrid the following season as El Clasico meetings were cranked up to increasingly combustible levels.

Mourinho’s Real suffered a 5-0 drubbing in his first fixture against Barcelona at the Nou Camp, but the second half of the season saw four El Clasico meetings in the space of 18 days as tempers frayed spectacularly.

First, Mourinho and Real got one over on the Catalans by beating them in the 2011 Copa del Rey final, with Guardiola bitingly stating afterwards that: “Jose is the dog’s bollocks in front of the press. I can’t compete with him there.”

They then played out a 1-1 draw in La Liga, before meeting at the Bernabeu in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals.

Barca won 2-0 as Pepe was sent off for Real and Mourinho was sent to the stands. The second leg ended 1-1. Barca booked their place in the final and subsequently beat Manchester United, also wrapping up the La Liga title that season.

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Things would spill over the following season in the second leg of the 2011 Spanish Super Cup, when a mass melee sparked by Marcelo being sent off led to a scuffle on the touchline in which Mourinho gouged the eye of Barca assistant boss Tito Vilanova – earning the Portuguese firebrand a two-game ban, and a one-game suspension for Vilanova for his role.

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Barca won the trophy 5-4 on aggregate, but Real would go on to win the 2011/12 La Liga title as Guardiola decided he was burned out and needed a break from the game.

'Every time I play Pep I end up with 10 men'

The next chapter in the rivalry would come in very different circumstances, with Mourinho having moved on from Real to a second spell at Chelsea, while Guardiola had returned from a hiatus to take over at Bayern Munich.

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The two teams met early in the season in the 2013 UEFA Super Cup, with Chelsea having won the UEFA Cup under Rafa Benitez the previous season, and Bayern the Champions League under Jupp Heynckes.

Bayern ended up winning on penalties, coming from behind twice during a match in which Chelsea had Ramires sent off – continuing a pattern of Mourinho seeing players from his teams given an early bath in meetings against Guardiola.

“Every time I play Pep I end up with 10 men. It must be some sort of UEFA rule. The best team clearly lost. They just scored one more penalty,” Mourinho would later lament.

THE THAW

The next stage of the rivalry was Manchester, as Mourinho took over at United in May of 2016, while Guardiola took over at City that same summer.

But despite the ingredients being there for their incendiary rivalry to continue, Manchester was generally the scene of a thaw in relations.

In the pair’s first season in charge, City finished third in the league, with United down in sixth – although Mourinho did lead his team to glory in the League Cup and UEFA Europa League, while Guardiola ended his first campaign trophyless.  

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That was to change in the following two seasons as City established themselves as the dominant force in England, winning back-to-back titles along with domestic cups.

Mourinho led United to second in the table in the 2017-18 season, they were a country mile behind their cross-town rivals.

And while relations between Mourinho and Guardiola remained cordial, the Portuguese did take digs at Manchester City over their Amazon documentary ‘All or Nothing’, apparently taking issue with how it had portrayed him and United.

“You can have a fantastic movie while respecting others. You don’t need to be disrespectful to have a fantastic movie. You can be a rich club and buy the best players in the world but you cannot buy class and they showed that clearly, that was really obvious,” Mourinho said.

Guardiola refused to take the bait.

It was Guardiola who emerged victorious in the pair’s last meeting, which came in November 2018 when City beat United 3-1 – a result which hastened Mourinho’s exit from Old Trafford the following month.

FRIENDS REUNITED?

Just as with Mourinho, Guardiola struck a respectful tone as the pair prepare to renew their rivalry when Tottenham host Manchester City on Sunday.

“On my side, always I had incredible respect for what he has done for football and his career,” said Guardiola.

“Sometimes situations happen. It’s part of our job. That’s all,” he added, signalling that the hatchet has been well and truly buried.

We’ll find out whether that really is the case in North London on Sunday.

MOURINHO VS GUARDIOLA HEAD-TO-HEAD

Matches: 22

Guardiola wins: 11

Draws: 6

Mourinho wins: 5

Guardiola managerial honours (first team): 27

Mourinho managerial honours: 25

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