Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka has taken a dig at Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola ahead of the two sides meeting this weekend by claiming that he isn't the best boss in the Premier League as Jose Mourinho has that distinct title.
Despite all three men now managing in the Premier League it is fair to say that there is no love lost as the ties o Real Madrid and Barcelona remain clear.
Karanka, who won the Champions League as a player with Real before joining Mourinho's coaching staff as assistant manager at the Bernabeu, takes on Guardiola on Saturday with his Middlesbrough side.
And ahead of the meeting the 'Boro boss had some choice words for his counterpart by suggesting that he isn't even the best manager in Manchester.
But not only that, he hinted that their relationship has more of an edge given their history.
"For me, Jose is a better manager than Pep," Karanka told the Daily Mail.
"I worked with Jose for three years and I know his methodology, I know his character, I know everything.
"For me it was amazing to work with him, so I know him better than Pep."
"We (myself and Pep) are not (friends) because Real Madrid versus Barcelona were big games.
"Once you’ve been part of that divide, it stays there. But I think it is the same here if you are Newcastle, Sunderland or Middlesbrough. I think it’s always the same.
"I wasn't with him in the national team (either) so I didn't have a relationship with him."
Pep 'not the best'
Karanka then went on to reel off a lift of managers that he feels are held in just a high a regard as the City chief, and when asked if he felt Guardiola was one of the best in the game he responded: "One of the best. But I don't think one is much better than the rest because we also have Jose.
"We have Diego Simeone in Spain, Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte here, so there are a lot of top coaches."
Karanka also backed former City striker Alvaro Negredo to shine upon his return to the Etihad, two-and-a-half years after leaving the club.
Negredo initially found a hot run of form for City, bagging 23 goals in the first half of the 2013/14 season across all competitions, but failed to find the net again beyond the turn of the year.
The 31-year-old is currently going through another dry spell at the Riverside, having failed to score since the opening day of the season, but Karanka believes the striker will have something to prove against his former club.
"When you have played in a big team and now you are facing up against them in their stadium, I think it will be an extra motivation for him," he said.
"I don’t know exactly what went wrong for him there, but as a striker, you can probably think that it was a lack of confidence. ‘If you are in a team like Man City and you start losing your position, it can be hard to get back to your best again."
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