Jose Mourinho vs Pep Guardiola : The humble beginnings of the famous rivalry
Two of the most decorated managers in the footballing world, having won almost everything that's there to be won, face each other again; the battleground this time - England and the crowning glory -The Premier League.
We have become so used to seeing them lock horns over the past couple of years that most of us still believe that they have been rivals forever. What if I told you that it's not at all how it started? What if I told you that the two were best of companions during their initial years and shared a close bond with each other?
Part I: When Jose met Pep (1996-2000)
It all began in the summer of 1992 when the newly appointed manager of Sporting CP, Sir Bobby Robson was on the lookout for a local coach who would work as his translator. A young Jose Mourinho, who had just begun his coaching journey grabbed the opportunity. However, things didn't turn out well at Sporting and the duo moved to Porto.
At Porto, Jose made his mark by continuing his interpreter role along with discussing tactics with the players. His focus on defence combined with Robson's attacking mindset proved highly effective and Porto achieved considerable success during their reign.
In 1996, Barcelona came calling for Sir Bobby Robson who took Jose with him. This is where he met a certain Pep Guardiola, who had grown to be a prominent member of the first team. The duo grew fond of each other and was seen together for most of the time discussing strategies and in conferences.
Next season, Guardiola was made Barca captain and Mourinho was promoted as the assistant to the new manager Louis Van Gaal after he had decided to stay when Sir Bobby Robson left.
This is also when Mourinho also started receiving himself as one among the Catalan people (as was prominently the case, with football being considered a way to express freedom and support Catalan independence).
This is where he connected even better with Pep and the squad. But that was to be the end of the road as Pep continued in the first team while Mourinho moved to Benfica in 2000 after managing Barca B for some time.
Part II: The middle years (2000-2008)
Pep left Barcelona in 2001 after 17 years of service and accumulating 16 trophies in 12 seasons with the first team. He moved to Italian sides Brescia and then Roma, but his tenure was not much successful, eventually retiring in 2006.
Meanwhile, Jose became one of the hottest properties in the managerial world after achieving unprecedented success and winning a number of titles including the Champions League with Porto in 2004.
He then joined Roman Abramovich's Chelsea and won the Premier League title in his first season in the EPL, and went on to win more silverware in the years to come and breaking a string of records.
Part III: The beginning of the rivalry (2008-2012)
In 2007, Barcelona were on the lookout for a new manager after they had sacked Frank Rijkaard. Jose was one of the frontrunners for the job after his exploits and stunning managerial career. He himself wanted to manage the club as he had developed a special connection with Barcelona during his early days.
However, the management decided to bring in a relatively new face, one who was deeply connected to the Catalan roots. The ultimate choice being Pep Guardiola. Jose was infuriated and even went on to state his thoughts openly, giving a glimpse of what was about to come.
Also Read: 5 reasons why Pep Guardiola is special
Part IV: Pep's Barca vs Mourinho's Madrid
Jose's newly developed hatred for Barca proved to be the perfect opportunity for arch-rivals Real Madrid to put one over on Barca. They got Mourinho on board in 2010 to counter the juggernaut Barcelona had become.
The following years were probably the most heated years in El Classico history after frequent clashes between both sets of players, the prominent one being the brawl in the 2011 Supercopa De Espana clash in which Mourinho poked then Barcelona assistant manager Titi Vilanova in the eye.
Mourinho also openly accused UEFA and other footballing bodies of foul play and providing favourable treatments to Barca. Pep, however, rarely talked about such issues publicly and avoided controversies, finally leaving as Barcelona's head coach in 2012.
Part V: Newer Pastures and Reunion
Mourinho returned to Chelsea and Pep left for Bayern in a move which eased the tensions between the duo. However, this was not to be for long. Manchester City went for Pep in their efforts to build the Etihad into a footballing powerhouse and in the subsequent year, Manchester United appointed Jose Mourinho as their boss following the disappointing results since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
It's been a season for both in the city of Manchester and the two seem to have developed a lot of respect for each other amid competitiveness to perform for their clubs. The 2017-18 season looks to be a mouth-watering prospect for football lovers worldwide and the ones who have closely followed "The Special One" and "The Spectacular One".