After two trophy-barren campaigns, another premature Champions League exit and an unprecedented shopping-spree, Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez acquired the services of Jose Mourinho to lead the Spanish capital club back to glory. Even though Bobby Robsons’ ex-assistant isn’t exactly known to be a proponent of slick and stylish attacking football, he is however a hugely successful tactician who has won multiple honors with his last three clubs.
Love him or loathe him but his record speaks for himself, everywhere he went nothing but success has followed him. It’s hard to argue against a manager who has led two different clubs to Champions League glory. In 2004, FC Porto were a long-shot at best to win the much coveted trophy, while Inter Milan’s domestic dominance never transcended into European success prior to his arrival.
Even with such illustrious managers such as Fabio Capello, Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson still very active, there are voices suggesting that Jose Mourinho is set to become the greatest manager of all-time.
Greater than Capello and Ferguson?
At first sight there isn’t too much of a difference between Jose Mourinho, Fabio Capello and Sir Alex Ferguson. Each of these tacticians has won arguably everything there is to win in world football but still, Mourinho stands out.
Unlike Mourinho or Capello, SAF has been very content managing Manchester United for the majority of his career. The fiery Scot considers the Red Devils a big enough challenge in itself, thus he never had the urge to manage another club ever since he arrived in Manchester.In this aspect, as well as in his approach to football, Mourinho is more similar to Fabio Capello.
Both, Mourinho and Capello, like to organize their teams from a solid defense, even at the expense of creative freedom. Both these tacticians know how to grind out results and win championships with different clubs. Capello however has a rather weak record when it comes to knock-out competitions except with AC Milan. That’s where Mourinho triumphs, he has won knock-out competitions with every one of his last three clubs.
Hence the Portuguese manager can be considered a serious contender for the greatest of all-time.
During his heyday as an active player, the Catalan player was considered to be a world-class player despite his rather unassuming physical attributes. Pep Guardiola was neither very fast nor strong, yet he was the lynchpin for the success the "Dream Team" under Johan Cruyff enjoyed. Originally a right-sided midfielder, it was the aforementioned Cruyff who deployed him as a deep-sitting midfielder or pivot.
Though La Masia is nowadays associated with producing the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Lionel Messi and more recent, Pedro, Josep Guardiola remains the original poster boy for FC Barcelona’s football factory. A Catalan hero and idol to a new generation of players like Xavi, Iniesta and Arsenal FC’s Cesc Fabregas who, like his hero, wears the no. 4 shirt.
His transition into management was not unforeseen as former teammates and coaches alike reckoned the qualities of Pep Guardiola, even Jose Mourinho when he was both, translator and assistant manager at FC Barcelona.
Their shared time in Barcelona is about the only thing these two men have in common. While Pep Guardiola favors fluid attacking football, against any opponent, at any venue, under any circumstances; Jose Mourinho emphasizes a solid defense and counter-attacks. Although Mourinho’s spell in London was wildly successful, his Chelsea team was rather dull to watch. But then again, one can’t question the trophies he has won with all of his teams.
Based on trophies won and the number of teams managed, Jose Mourinho is the shoe-in for greatest manager of all-time. I do, however, feel that Pep Guardiola has as much claim as the so-called Special One. To win trophies and championships is never easy, never has been and never will be but winning it in style is even a more difficult undertaking. Mourinho’s teams have won domestic and continental titles but are hardly if ever in contention to be one of the best sides to ever grace a football pitch.
While Mourinho might be remembered for his accomplishments, his teams aren’t mentioned along those legendary AC Milan, Ajax Amsterdam, Manchester United, FC Barcelona or even Real Madrid sides who have marked an era. Perhaps it is slightly premature to celebrate the current Barca roster as one of finest sides of all-time but this FC Barcelona team definitely gives us food for thought.
Though Mourinho’s Inter Milan accomplished the treble last season, the pundits agree upon on thing, FC Barcelona are the team to beat, whether it is the domestic league, the domestic cup or (club) football’s most prestigious competition, the UEFA Champions League.
As is stands, FC Barcelona is very well positioned to challenge for another treble. If Pep Guardiola manages to guide his side to second treble, he’ll most definitely make this Barca team one of the best football sides of all-times and subsequently himself the greatest manager of all. Not to belittle Mourinho’s accomplishments but having billionaire sugar daddies makes winning slightly more easily; winning two trebles even if it is with one and the same team is not.
For now, let’s see how these two remarkable coaches will do in La Liga. Until either of the two retires, the debate of who is the best manager should rest.