As Manchester City prepare to host Spanish giants Barcelona at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday evening, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho aimed a few choice words at his former employers.
Referring to the fact that most bookmakers have the Catalan giants as favourites to lift the Champions League trophy, the Portuguese manager said: "Of course by history Barcelona is the favourite, but this Barcelona, this season, is showing it is not the same as in previous years.
"Of course, they have Lionel Messi – he is special – and they have more than him.
"But I think this is the worst Barcelona of many, many years."
Since leaving his position as translator, a tag still given to him by Barcelona fans, to the late Bobby Robson in 1993 the relationship between himself and the club has eroded to the point of no return.
It is mutual loathing. No love for the other exists. The work he did for Robson at the club has been confined to mere memory, whilst the Englishman’s name is still lovingly chimed around the Nou Camp to this day.
The cracks in the relationship first arose when Mourinho, then a Champions League winner with Porto, returned to Spain in 2005 with his Chelsea side aiming to show Barcelona just how far he had climbed the footballing ladder.
Instead, in a 2-1 loss, Mourinho caused outrage amongst the home fans by accusing opposition manager Frank Rijkaard of influencing referee Anders Frisk. Frisk had shown Didier Drogba red card for an inoffensive challenge on Victor Valdes, and later resigned from his post after receiving death threats from Blues' fans.
Mourinho applied for the Barcelona post after Rijkaard left in 2008. But instead, then club President Juan Laporta opted for the youthful exuberance of Pep Guardiola, who had been a student in the Blaugrana ranks under Robson and Mourinho.
The pair met when Mourinho took his Inter Milan side to the Nou Camp in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2010.
Even before a ball had been kicked, the Portuguese had mocked the ‘Barcelona obsession’ to win the trophy in rivals Real Madrid’s own Santiago Bernabeu stadium, where the final was being held.
Despite being reduced to ten men and being subjected to wave after wave of Barcelona attacks, Inter stood tall and defended brilliantly to progress courtesy of a Diego Milito goal in the first leg.
But for Mourinho, it was not enough. Bristling with arrogance and an air of superiority, he raced onto the pitch to celebrate and soak in the loathing being poured in his direction by all corners of the stadium that used to be his home.
The final nail in the coffin was when ‘the translator’ succeeded Manuel Pellegrini at Real Madrid, just months after his celebration on Catalonian shores.
His aim? To topple Barcelona and win the Champions League.
The opportunity to do both arose in his maiden season at the Bernabeu, when Madrid and Barcelona met in the Spanish capital for a place in the final of the tournament.
Pepe saw red for an innocuous challenge on Dani Alves, whilst a Messi brace made a comeback in the return leg the slimmest of possibilities.
Mourinho was sent to the stands and, after the game, accused his former side of receiving specialist favours from the powers at Uefa, due to their charity work with Unicef.
‘I won two European titles and I won them on the pitch,’ he said referring to Barcelona’s fortuitous semi-final win over Chelsea in 2009.
‘I hope one day Pep Guardiola wins a Champions League as it should be – perfect, spotless and without any scandal.
‘I don’t know if it is to give publicity to Unicef or their power at Uefa. If Barcelona are honest, they know this is happening.’
The controversies and bridge between the two continues to grow as the years roll on.
Peace will only come when the Special One becomes the Retired One.
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