Jose vs Pep : Goliath vs Goliath
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on September 8, 2016
The Build-up: A derby that seemed to have had lost its needle in the last three years is now ready to explode into action and acrimony. A derby that will send one part of a city into despair and the other in jubilation is just over the horizon. It’s time for the Manchester Derby where the red devils take on the ever rising blue moon. And two protagonists are chiefly responsible for this powder keg situation, Jose Mourinho, and Pep Guardiola. This is Goliath vs Goliath!
A rivalry that has snaked across continents and competitions. A rivalry that has resulted in public spats and sinister insinuations. A rivalry that promises to raise the bar sky high in the much anticipated Manchester derby and the entire Premier League. With it being only the fourth game of the league for the two teams, this is not a title decider by any imagination but there is more on offer than three points for the two managers. Pride, ego, settling of old scores, the healing of old wounds or the reopening of old scars and a marker to the other teams about who rules the roost in this neck of the woods.
Friendly Beginnings: Before being arch enemies, Jose and Pep were seemingly friends and are said to have a great working relationship. The translator, Jose, and the marquee player, Pep working together to decipher and impart Sir Bobby Robson’s plan to the wider Barcelona team. But a man with the talents and desire of Jose was always more than a simple translator. He was running the show from the sidelines, aiding Sir Bobby with tactical advice. Such was the impression of Jose that he was retained even after Sir Bobby’s departure. The arrival of Louis van Gaal further cemented Jose’s reputation as a future world beater. Everything seemed hunky dory.
Trouble in Paradise: As always, Jose had an eye on the top job at Barcelona. And the moment of reckoning arrived when time came to replace Frank Rijkaard as manager with both Jose and Pep as potential successors. But the hierarchy went for the club legend, Pep. Like a jilted lover for whom rejection is a dose most difficult to consume, Jose felt betrayed. This seminal moment marked the beginning of a feud that has no end in sight even after more than a decade of highs and lows for both individuals.
The Rivalry: Like destiny’s children on war footing, it was inevitable that Jose’s and Pep’s path would cross and with results that shook the footballing world. Be it the 2010 Champions League semi-final between Inter Milan and Barcelona which Inter won 3-2 on aggregate or the 5-0 annihilation of Jose’s Real Madrid by Pep’s Barcelona.
But what was simmering as a low flame rivalry soon came to full boil and became much more personal when Jose joined Real Madrid in 2010. With Pep as the Barcelona manager, there was only one way this coming together would head. Though Barcelona kept on winning but Mourinho credited himself with stopping the Pep juggernaut evidenced by winning the La Liga once with record goals for Real Madrid. Sly remarks, personal barbs, allegations of referring partiality, abuses et al. Nothing was off limit, anything goes was the motto. The El Clasicos became bitter to the extreme and the animosity on display was unheard off. The Mourinho eye-poke on Tito Vilanova showcased the depths to which the rivalry had seeped through. The extent of the person and professional toll that the rivalry exerted can be gauged from the fact that some informed people attribute it as the primary reason for Pep’s yearlong sabbatical.
A Study in Contrast: Both Jose and Pep are certified serial winners having tasted success both at the local league level and also at European level. Both have their worshippers and their critics. Both divide opinions to the extreme. They both operate with starkly different styles and thus form a perfect contrast.
Pep relies on his philosophy of possession-based ‘easy-on-the-eye’ football where style matters as much as the substance. He is not content with a 1-0 win and prefers total submission of an opponent with a 5-1 mauling while retaining 70% possession. Like the adrenaline junkie always going for more and more. The Barcelona team of 2008-09 that Pep orchestrated and made sing is a footballing template for the ages. That kind of supremacy was unheard of in recent times and it made people sit up and take notice. Though the football was being played on the field, it seemed as if Pep had already played it several times in his mind like a game of chess and preempted all possibilities. The mazy runs of Lionel Messi and the sheer vision of Andres Iniesta which Pep harnessed to perfection is an ode to him. Even his training rituals at Bayern Munich were awe-inspiring. Pep is ‘The Idealistic One’.
Jose works on the other end of the spectrum. He is the manager who follows the line of thinking that a 1-0 victory gives you the same number of points and the same impact on the table as a 4-0 thrashing of the opponent (minus the goal difference). Like a contented merchant who pulls the shutters down as soon as he pockets his pre-decided profits for the day (the all too familiar Mikel substitution in the 70th minute when leading 1-0). Though rivals might brand his version of football as ‘boring boring’ but Chelsea winning the 2013-14 league title is a testament to the effectiveness of his methods. The mantra of doing more without the ball and the need for every player to contribute defensively is the central theme of Jose’s tactics along with his penchant for counter-attacking football. Though the ‘Chelsea bus’ analogy has stuck with him but Jose is not a defensive manager but one who likes e back door to be firmly shut lest the intruders spoil the party. Jose is ‘The Pragmatic One’.
Parting Shot: After rolling and rumbling through the years, the latest setting for this age-old rivalry is the Premier League and the Manchester derby happens to be the focal point of this Jose-Pep slug-fest. In a league that has more contenders than pretenders, Jose and Pep cannot only concentrate on each other. There could be a Chelsea, Arsenal or Leicester that can walk away with the top prize. But there can be no mistake in assuming that both Pep and Jose once again have cocked their guns on each other ready to shoot to kill. No prisoners will be taken.
Quotable Quotes: An exchange that best brings to light the Jose-Pep rivalry :
Jose, when Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-0 in Champions League semifinal in 2011:
“One day, I would like Josep Guardiola to win this competition properly. If I tell UEFA what I really think and feel, my career would end now. Instead, I will just ask a question to which I hope one day to get a response: Why? Why Ovrebo? Why Busacca? Why De Bleeckere? Why Stark? Why? Because every semi-final the same things happen. We are talking about an absolutely fantastic football team, so why do they need that? Why? Why does a team as good as they are need something [extra] that is so obvious that everyone sees it? I don’t know if it is the UNICEF sponsorship or if it is because they are nice guys. I don’t understand. They have power and we have no chance. All I can do is leave that question here in the air and hope that one day I will get the response. They have to get to the final, and they’ll get there – full stop. Josep Guardiola is a fantastic coach. But I have won two Champions Leagues and he has won only one Champions League – and that is one that would embarrass me. I would be ashamed to have won it with the scandal of Stamford Bridge. If he wins it this year, it will be with the scandal of the Bernabeu. Deep down, if they are good people, it cannot taste right for them. I hope one day Guardiola has the chance of winning a brilliant, clean championship with no scandal.”
Pep ahead of the Champions League semi-final in 2011:
“As senor Mourinho has called me Pep, I’m going to call him Jose. Tomorrow at 8.45pm we will face each other on the pitch. Off the pitch, he’s won. He’s been winning off the pitch all season. Let them give him a Champions League for it so he can enjoy it and take it home. In the press room, he is ‘el p*** jefe’ (the ******* boss) and the one who knows more than everyone else. I would only remind him that we were together, he and I, for four years. He knows me and I know him. That’s enough for me. If he prefers to value the views of the journalist friends who take their information in a drip feed from Florentino Pérez more than the relationship we had for four years then that’s his choice. I try to learn from Jose on the pitch, but I prefer to learn as little as possible from him off the pitch.”
Roll on, Saturday!