Pep Guardiola, on the face of it, appeared a man more than content with life as Barcelona manager. There were, however, concerns about the lack of support from the Camp Nou hierarchy and, at times, Guardiola felt as though he was running the club alone.
One particular bugbear of Guardiola’s was the club would never be prepared to jump to his defence in the midst of incessant broadsides from Jose Mourinho. Barcelona would rarely publicly respond to Mourinho, and Guardiola was urged to do the same. Bite your tongue, he was told.
But it all eventually got a little too much for Guardiola to take. He had to stand up for Mourinho - for himself, to defend his players and for the sake of the club, as is detailed in Marti Perarnau’s new book, Pep Confidential.
Guardiola chose a very public setting in which to do so, during a press conference ahead of Barcelona’s Champions League semi-final encounter with Mourinho’s Madrid in 2011, and was uncharacteristically aggressive and terse.
He had been warned to continue to toe the party line. ‘Don’t answer back’ said sports director Andoni Zubizarreta, but Guardiola could maintain his dignified stance no longer. Mourinho got it, and he got it both barrels.
Guardiola was so incensed that he even dropped a number of expletives as he fixed his stare on the camera lenses, aware the Mourinho would see and hear every word.
“If he wants his own personal Champions League trophy away from the pitch, let him take it home and enjoy it,” Guardiola said.
“In this room [the Santiago Bernabeu press room] Mourinho is the f****** chief, the f****** boss.”
Guardiola was greeted as a hero upon his arrival back at the Barcelona team hotel, with the players awarding their courageous manager a standing ovation.
Barcelona won the following day at the Santiago Bernabeu, and went on to beat Manchester United in the final.
He had got precisely the reaction he wanted.
This story comes from Pep Confidential: The Inside Story of Pep Guardiola's First Season at Bayern Munich'. It is out now in paperback and ebook and is published by BackPage Press / Arena Sport