Since the beginning of the calendar year, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are the only coaches who have had high-profile rows with their respective medical staffs. Perhaps these two footballing enemies are not so different after all...
If modern football was to be compared to ancient Rome, Jose Mourinho and Josep Guardiola would certainly be linked to mythical characters Romulus and Remus.
Indeed, the two coaches are spiritual brothers because their footballing aptitudes have been simultaneously forged at FC Barcelona. It was back in 1997, when Mourinho, a thirty-something translator aspiring to be a manager, was freshly promoted as a coaching assistant. Meanwhile, Guardiola, a twenty-something midfielder who graduated from Barcelona’s prestigious youth academy, was given the captain’s armband.
Unlike the two mythical brothers who fought to conquer the city of Rome, Jose and Pep did not go on to commit fratricide. Yet, because of their verbal tug-of-war in recent years, one can say that they are metaphorically trying to ‘kill’ each other. Despite the fact that they have honed their skills in the same location, Mourinho and Guardiola have grown to despise each other once their managerial careers took off.
Their antagonism was fuelled by their managerial stints in Spain. From 2010 to 2013, Mourinho was officiating at Real Madrid while his nemesis was plying his trade at Barcelona from 2008 to 2012. The two cohabited in La Liga for only two years, however within that short period of time the intrinsic animosity between the two Spanish clubs they coached rubbed off on the pair’s relationship.
For example, on April 2011, after Mourinho accused him of contesting legitimate refereeing decisions, Guardiola launched a foul-mouthed tirade aimed at his nemesis. He said: “Señor Mourinho has permitted himself the luxury of calling me Pep, so I will call him Jose.
“Tomorrow at 8.45pm we face each other on the pitch. He has won the battle off the pitch. If he wants his own personal Champions League trophy away from the pitch, let him take it home and enjoy it. In this room [the Bernabéu press room] Mourinho is the f—— chief, the f—— boss. He knows all about this and I don’t want to compete with him in here. I’d just like to remind him that I worked with him for four years [at Barcelona]. He knows me and I know him.
“If he prefers to value the views of the journalists who take their information in a drip feed from [Real Madrid president] 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.”
It has been a few years now since both left the Iberian peninsula for pastures new. Since the summer of 2013, Mourinho is in Chelsea’s dugout while Guardiola has filled the immense void left by Bayern Munich’s treble-winning manager Jupp Heynckes. Yet despite, the geographical distance separating them, rancour is still perceptible whenever the two managers speak about each other during press conferences.
Undeniably, the two old foes have diverging managerial styles. Guardiola is an adept of possession-based football while Mourinho is an advocate of pragmatic, counter-attacking football. However, we seem to have found a major similarity between the two arch-enemies: they have both prompted the demotion or resignation of their respective medicals staffs in a brazen and unapologetic fashion.
Last week, the unorthodox Mourinho sent shockwaves in world football – just another day at the office for the Portuguese tactician – when he publicly berated his medical staff. The general outcry which ensued was fuelled by the fact that one of the people at the receiving end of that public bashing was Eva Carneiro, a trailblazing physio renowned for being one of the only women to occupy such an elite position in a Premier League club.
Four months ago, it was Guardiola who was guilty of denigrating his medics in the public domain. Following a shocking loss at the hands of a so-called lesser team – 3-1 loss against Porto in the Champions League quarter-finals – the 44-year-old insinuated that his physios were primarily responsible for the club’s misfortunes on the continental stage. In fact, Guardiola was caught on camera taunting them on the touchline when the injured Mehdi Benatia was prematurely forced to abandon his teammates.
In the aftermath of the defeat, the Spaniard also said: “We have players who were out a long time with injuries. Their legs don’t last very long. It’s a tough result to take into the second leg, but we’ll give it a go.”
In the wake of those thinly-veiled accusations, Bayern’s perennial first team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt and his underlings handed in their resignation letters, much to the consternation of the local press. The 73-year-old doctor released the following statement to justify that collective exit: “After the Champions League match of Bayern Munich against Porto the medical department was for some inexplicable reason made primarily responsible. The bond of trust has been damaged.”
Noteworthy is the fact that Muller-Wohlfahrt was officiating at Bayern since 1977. He was also Germany’s chief medic in the team’s triumphant World Cup campaign last year.
Following Mourinho’s recent outburst, Doctor Carneiro has not yet resigned, but she has been banned from attending Chelsea’s official outings and training sessions. Indeed, her position at Stamford Bridge seems increasingly untenable. To make matters worse, her personal life is now under intense scrutiny. Earlier this week, unsavoury comments about her romantic life have been leaked as a result of her row with the Chelsea manager, per 90min.com.
Mourinho and Guardiola never cease to criticize each other, but regarding the treatment of their respective medical teams, they are strongly advised to take a step back and indulge in auto-critique. Unfortunately, when one has a trophy cabinet bursting with trophies, medals and all sorts of individual accolades, reflecting on off-field mistakes is not very high on the priority list.