OP-ED: Guardiola defeats Mourinho in their first Premier League encounter
Once upon a time there were two great, effective, outspoken and genius coaches. They were a landmark in sports history not only in Spain but in the whole planet. One of them, from Portugal, shaped his work in Barcelona at the team where the other was a star player. When his playing days were over, the Spaniard became a coach at his beloved FC Barcelona development squad.
After winning two European championships with two different teams, José Mourinho landed in Madrid to manage powerhouse Real. He was the ace up the sleeve of president Florentino Pérez. In the other hand, Guardiola was promoted to the head job by former club president Joan Laporta, who was struggling at his position. Guardiola did not have any experience coaching top teams, but Laporta trusted his know-how and wisdom. And he was right!
Despite managing great players like Cristiano Ronaldo (at Real Madrid) and Leo Messi (at Barcelona), the two coaches became the clubs’ shining stars, gathering most of the attention given by the media. TV networks broadcasted their press conferences live, registering larger audiences than Spanish comedy shows.
Mourinho made Real Madrid’s attacking style unique, taking advantage of sensational forwards on his vertical playing method. Guardiola liked a horizontal game that destroyed opponents little by little in a system named “tiki-taka” that was acknowledged worldwide.
Although they acted differently (Guardiola always smiled and Mourinho used to show a grumpy face), those who cover soccer used to tell me they were very similar. So Pep was not as good as it seemed and José was not as bad. Both worked hard and inscrutable, closing practices to the media.
It is true the Portuguese won some battles (a Spanish Cup and a League), but the Spaniard owned the war at his own soil, conquering the precious Champions League that was negated to Mourinho as Real Madrid’s coach.
The intensity generated in Spain’s soccer was too much in a two-year period and both emigrated abroad. After resting for a season, one moved to Germany –to Bayern Munich, where he was nicknamed “Herr Pep”. The other one went back to England -to Chelsea, where he was known as “The Special One”.
Neither Guardiola in Germany nor Mourinho in London were able to achieve the objectives set by the clubs who hired them, so both left after last season. Ironically they end up in the same city: Manchester. José with the goal of recovering United’s glory; Pep with the objective of consolidating City.
This past weekend the two great coaches faced each other again in Manchester’s derby. Their close ones say they have become friends, but their rivalry is still huge and generated a tremendous amount of media coverage. City won, 2-1, with Spanish forward David Silva being the playing star of the contest. Anyway, many recap the encounter as “Pep’s first win over Mourinho in the Premiership”.
Is it unfair to give so much attention to the coaches? Maybe it is. But the two genius showed again that, when they meet around a soccer field they are capable of paralyzing the whole planet.