PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

In light of the ongoing battles between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho in Manchester, it felt pertinent to make this week’s photo relevant to one of their greatest encounters.

For those who remember when Zlatan Ibrahimovic had his quick encounter with Barcelona and Guardiola after a transfer fee (which equated to at least €66m; a €46m fee, Samuel Eto’o, and Aleksandr Hleb on loan), this picture was from the amazing 2009/2010 Champions League Semi Final second leg at the Nou Camp. This was probably one of the greatest Champions League games since the competitions re-branding in 1992.

Inter led the first leg 3-1 after Barca travelled to the San Siro via coach due to the European Volcanic ash bonanza. In this return leg, Thiago Motta, Inter’s holding midfielder, was sent off early in the game as Mourinho resorted to the most negative and pragmatic tactics ever seen. As ugly as their performance was, Guardiola could not break them down, and Mourinho, in his pomp, celebrated a 0-1 defeat (3-2 aggregate) victory.

Zlatan would depart, despite that fee, to Milan on loan the next season, after reportedly calling Guardiola a ‘spineless coward’ who should get some ‘balls’. (His book, I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was sensationalised in the Mail, and has some interesting quotes on his relationship with both Mourinho and Guardiola).

While it’s impossible to ever know what Mourinho has just said to Guardiola, Ibrahimovic’s presence there symbolised the volatile relationship between the two. Once the Portuguese migrated to Madrid their rivalry would become more explosive, as the two greatest managers imposing polar ideologies would lock horns for domestic Spanish superiority. Their head to head stands at P15, Guardiola 7, Mourinho 3, draws 5. The Premier League would assert itself indefinitely as the best in the world if they both plyed their trade there.