BOOK EXTRACT: 'Pep Confidental: The Inside Story of Pep Guardiola's First Season at Bayern Munich'
Munich, September 15, 2013
Pep was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of Uli Hoeness and Kalle Rummenigge the day after the European Super Cup match in Prague. Bayern’s top executives had immediately sprung to his defence. "Mourinho’s comments are completely out of order ... but then perhaps it was a different match he was watching."
The Chelsea coach had said: "Every time I play Pep I end up with 10 men. It must be some sort of UEFA rule." What Mourinho forgot to say that day in Prague was that Ramires’ tackle on Mario Götze had torn the ligaments of the German player’s ankle.
It was Ramires’ second yellow card and he was sent off, but in truth, the severity of the tackle should have resulted in a straight red.
Pep was taken aback because he was so unused to getting this level of support from his bosses. During his time at Barça he had had to deal with numerous unwarranted and serious attacks on the team and the whole institution, and his was often the sole voice raised in their defence. In April 2011, Barcelona and Real Madrid had a run of four derbies in 18 days. These Clasicos were marred by excessive levels of hostility and a few Madrid players played with an aggression bordering on violence, whilst more than one Barca player indulged in diving and other unsportsmanlike conduct.
After the Copa del Rey final, which Madrid won with a Cristiano Ronaldo goal, the Barcelona coach congratulated the opposition, adding that his own team had been very close to victory themselves. The referee had, rightly, disallowed a goal by Pedro for offside. Guardiola said later: "A two-centimetre decision from a linesman who must have had a very good view ruled out Pedro’s goal."
On April 26, 2011, Pep and his players were having lunch in the private restaurant of the Eurostars Madrid Tower Hotel. The television was showing Mourinho’s press conference ahead of the Champions League semi-final they would be playing the next day. Pep had his back to the screen and wasn’t paying attention when one of his assistants suggested he turn around and listen.
"We have started a new cycle. Up until now there was a very small group of coaches who didn’t talk about referees and a very large group, in which I am included, who criticise referees. Now, with Pep’s comments, we have started a new era with a third group, featuring only one person, a man who criticises the referee when he makes good decisions. This is completely new to me."
Pep’s players were also listening by this stage and were furious at Mourinho’s words and his mocking tone. It was the last straw for Guardiola. "The time has come!"
A few months earlier, Pep had said to his closest colleagues: "I know Mourinho only too well and he’s trying to provoke me into a reaction, but it won’t work. I’m not going to react. I’m not going to answer back. Only when I think the time is right." Mourinho was relentless and had often managed to wind Pep up. The Catalan had, however, maintained a dignified silence so far. Now his moment had come.
At 8pm on the day before the match, the players left the training session at the Bernabeu stadium, sensing that Pep was about to respond in kind to Mourinho. Word had got out and even senior management had heard that Pep was preparing a strongly-worded statement. Leaving the dressing room, one of the players closest to Guardiola wished him luck with the press conference, as did sports director Andoni Zubizarreta, who surprised him by saying, "We don’t answer back, eh, Pep? We don’t answer back. We like a low profile. A low profile."
Once again Pep was left feeling that the club had hung him out to dry and he decided to ignore management's advice and go ahead anyway. This time he responded with unprecedented fury.
"Senor 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. He's bested me in that arena the entire season and no doubt will continue to do so. 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 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 congratulated Real Madrid for winning the Cup. The offside call was a matter of centimetres. The referee was extremely smart and on the ball. I try to learn from Jose on the pitch when we play him or when I watch his team on television, but I prefer to learn as little as possible from him off the pitch."
Pep’s response that evening had inflamed an already tense situation. When he arrived at the team hotel, his men were waiting to give him a standing ovation. They were delighted with his response, which they considered long overdue.
These were players who, although used to receiving their fair share of praise and adulation, had also been accused of a range of transgressions including doping, dirty tricks, play acting and exerting undue influence over referees – and all of this whilst the club’s management pursued their apathetic policy of maintaining a low profile. The senior executives were not interested in defending them, but now Guardiola had stepped in. And he’d done it in the right place at exactly the right time.
'Pep Confidential: The Inside Story of Pep Guardiola's First Season at Bayern Munich' is out in paperback and ebook, published by BackPage Press / Arena Sport