Pep Guardiola’s departure from Barcelona was influenced by his hostile relationship with then-Real Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho, according to Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique.
Guardiola won 14 trophies – including three league titles and two Champions Leagues – in a four-year spell at Camp Nou, developing a legendary side featuring academy graduates including Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Pique.
However, Guardiola’s final season at the helm saw the Catalan giants finish second to Los Blancos in LaLiga, as Mourinho’s side broke the league’s points tally record by earning 100 points in 2011-12, also scoring a yet-to-be-matched 121 league goals. The points tally was equalled by Tito Vilanova’s Barcelona in the following season.
The two coaches clashed repeatedly after the Portuguese coach arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, and Pique believes the rivalry “got too much”, contributing to Guardiola’s decision to leave.
“We were winning everything at the time and I remember that the first time Mourinho came to Camp Nou he lost 5-0 against us [in November 2010],” Pique told Gary Neville on The Overlap.
“It was a shock of reality that these guys are going hard, but in the press conferences every time he was… you know his style, I think that for Guardiola at some point it was too much.
“It was more important sometimes what happened off the pitch than on the pitch.
“Guardiola left. Madrid won the league that year and all of a sudden, he decided to leave for so many reasons, but I am sure part of it was because with Mourinho it got too much.”
After Guardiola’s Manchester City team fell to a stunning 6-5 Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid earlier this month, he is tied with Mourinho as the two bosses with the most semi-final eliminations from the competition (six each), while the duo are also the two managers with the most wins in their first 100 Premier League games (both 73).
6 – Pep Guardiola has now suffered six eliminations at the semi-final stage of the UEFA Champions League (also 2009-10 and 2011-12 with Barcelona, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 with Bayern Munich); the joint-most of any manager, along with José Mourinho. Crushing. pic.twitter.com/gCtSnhvVR2
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 4, 2022
Pique claimed Mourinho’s confrontational style also affected relationships between Barcelona and Madrid players in the Spain international set-up, despite the team winning three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012.
“Since he arrived, he knew that on the pitch they were weaker than us,” Pique said of Mourinho’s time with Madrid. “We had a better team for sure, and even the relationships between players [were better].
“I remember going to the national team, and after those games it was tough because Mourinho goes to the mind of the player and he says, ‘These guys hate you’, then you believe that.
“I was in the dressing room of the national team and said to [Madrid goalkeeper] Iker Casillas, ‘Hey Iker’, and the guy did not talk to me. At that time, I did not know, but it was the coach, he really knows how to go into the mind.”
Asked whether Guardiola enjoyed the rivalry with Mourinho, Pique added: “I don’t think so. I remember the semi-final of the Champions League in the Bernabeu [in 2011], he did an amazing press conference, but it was not about football.
“He enjoys talking about what is happening on the pitch, and here there was a moment where the press was focusing on what was happening outside the pitch.”
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