During his long managerial career, Jose Mourinho has spent quite a lot of time trying to nullify Lionel Messi.
The Portuguese manager has come up against the Barcelona superstar on numerous occasions, particularly when he was in charge of Real Madrid.
More often that not, Messi emerged as the winner when he did battle with Mourinho’s Los Blancos teams.
But despite feeling the full force of the Argentine’s unquestionable brilliance, Mourinho is still a Messi admirer and he’s publicly praised him many times.
One of those occasions was back in 2019, when the soon-to-be Roma manager was on punditry duty for BeIN Sports on the night Barcelona and Messi were beaten 4-0 by Liverpool at Anfield, a result that famously saw them eliminated from the Champions League.
It was close to four minutes of exceptional punditry from the Portuguese.
Mourinho said: “What I can analyse is what I see, and what I see is a player that, during his career, went through a process and that process was always based on according to his qualities, how can he give the most to the team.”
“I was very fortunate because I was, let’s say, ‘close’ in all his career. In fact, the first match that he played for FC Barcelona was a Porto-Barcelona in the opening of Porto’s new stadium.”
“I played against him when I was in Chelsea, I played against him when I was at Inter and then I (went to) Madrid and I (was) in Madrid for three years so I played against him many times when he was coached by different managers in different positions on the pitch, and the only thing I can say is that progressively he was always better and better.”
The former United boss believes the only word that could aptly describe Messi is “genius”. “For me, ‘genius’ I think is the word you choose and I think the word is correct. Genius. (Messi puts in) lots of work. I don’t listen, you don’t read many things about Messi wrongdoing in his personal and social life. So it looks like he’s got everything together.
“But you know, no more words about this, guys. Genius is the word for me and for me a question that (I posed the other day) is the question that I going to keep for a (while).”
“Which Barcelona are we going to have when Messi decides to go home? That’s for me the big question. What next. That’s for me the big question.”
That question from Mourinho in 2019 is even more relevant now.
Messi is yet to sign a new contract at Barcelona and is currently free to leave the club in the summer.
Next season, we may finally see what the Catalan team are capable of achieving without arguably the greatest footballer in history.
(Credit: The Football Terrace)