English Premiership

OPINION: Guardiola v Mourinho 'who's better' debate is closer than you think

Jose Mourinho manager of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on February 02, 2020 in London, United Kingdom.
Jose Mourinho manager of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on February 02, 2020 in London, United Kingdom.
Catherine Ivil

Cape Town - The immediate reaction to the question 'who the better manager is' between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho is: Guardiola is perhaps the better overall manager, but Mourinho remains "The Special One" when it comes to tactics.

After Mourinho's Spurs side inflicted a 2-0 defeat on his Manchester City counterpart, it added another chapter in the protracted debate as to who is best between the two.

Guardiola now finds himself 22 points behind Liverpool in the Premier League title race - the biggest ever in league history - bettering a feat he inflicted on Mourinho's then Manchester United side - of 19 points - back in 2017/18.

These two managers have an intertwined history going back to their days at Barcelona as player/assistant coach where they have since gone from football allies to fierce rivals.

The contrast in how the two are viewed by football fans is intriguing, with Guardiola seen as a modern genius who revolutionised the game and Mourinho as the anti-football villain hated by purists.

There is a belief that Guardiola moulds teams to play his 'tiki-taka' possession-based system with Mourinho simply buying physically imposing athletic specimens to carry out his defensive-minded win-at-all-costs football.

Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho during training at

Guardiola's trophy haul is unrivalled by most after a trailblazing rookie season where he won everything before him in club football with a brand of exciting play at a level not seen before.

Taking inspiration from Johan Cruyff's legendary Barcelona teams, Guardiola instilled a full-press system out of possession - then once they won back the ball, put opponents on a carousel of expansive football that left the best players dizzy.

The 49-year-old then moved on to Germany with Bayern Munich and then to England at Manchester City where he continued to win titles and domestic cups.

Added to this is the style of football his teams play coupled by with inventive tactics while at the same improving a number of players.

So argument over right?

Game-set-match to Guardiola being the better manager ... ?

Not so fast.

Pep Guardiola trophies: 26

Trophies at Barcelona (14): 3 La Liga, 2 Copa del Rey, 2 Champions Leagues, 3 Supercopa de Espana, 2 UEFA Super Cup and 2 Club World Cup.
Trophies at Bayern (7): 3 Bundesliga, 2 DFB Pokal, 1 UEFA Super Cup and 1 Club World Cup
Trophies at Manchester City (5): 2 Premier League, 2 League Cup and 1 Community Shield

There are still some valid points that could have Mourinho force a tie-breaker in this discussion.

Mourinho, as a brash 39-year-old, led Porto to back-to-back Primeira titles before remarkably lifting the Champions League trophy in 2004 for only the second time in the club's history, since 1987.

The following year he led Chelsea to their first Premier League title in 50 years with a then-record 95 points.

In Serie A he led Inter Milan to the treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League titles - the only Italian club ever to do so.

José Mourinho and Samuel Eto’o celebrate at the Ca

He then moved on to Real Madrid in Spain where he eventually ended the reign of Guardiola's all-conquering Barcelona side (2008/09; 09/10; 11/12) to win La Liga with 100 points, a record which still stands.

The Portuguese's career has no doubt taken a dip - with his managerial flaws exposed - during poor spells thereafter at Chelsea and Manchester United, with Spurs a last chance to reignite his career as an elite manager.

But instead of this, there's some evidence as to why he remains the best tactician in the game:

- His masterclass over Manchester United in the last 16 and then Monaco in the final to lift the Champions League in the 2003/04 season.

- Taking on two legends in Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger to win the Premier League in his first season in charge of Chelsea.

- Winning back-to-back Serie A titles in a league widely regarded as the most tactically astute in the world.

- Pulling off one of the best tactical masterclasses ever at the helm of Inter Milan in knocking out Barcelona over two legs in the Champions League in 2009/10.

He also, while at Real Madrid, solved the complex tactical equation of overcoming Guardiola's 'tiki taka' football combined with their high-press system which changed the trend of modern tactics.

Teams tried copying Guardiola's style of football until a new counter-attacking brand of football popularised by Mourinho became the blueprint for many teams (such as Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid side)

Another highlight for Mourinho was beating Ajax Amsterdam in the Europa League final with Manchester United in 2017. Mourinho completely nullified an Ajax side that would reach the Champions League semis the following year by restricting them to zero clear-cut chances.

Jose Mourinho trophies: 25

Trophies at Porto: 2 Primeira Liga; 1 Portuguese Cup; 1 UEFA Cup; 1 Champions League (2004).
Trophies at Chelsea (first spell): 2 Premier League; 2 League Cup; 1 FA Cup.
Trophies at Inter Milan: 2 Serie A; 1 Italian Cup; 1 Champions League
Trophies at Real Madrid: 1 Primera Division; 1 Copa del Rey.
Trophies at Chelsea (second spell): 1 Premier League; 1 League Cup.
Trophies at Manchester United: 1 EFL Cup; 1 Europa League

The debate as to who is better has swung in Guardiola's favour for consistently moving the game forward with his genius tactics and philosophy.

If you were an owner with a blank chequebook it would be Guardiola who you'd want to build a title-winning side while playing exhilarating football.

Guardiola is a serial winner.

He favours playing the game in the right way and is fanatical on improving his players and has squeezed every inch out of their potential. His Barcelona side could well be the best club side the world has ever seen.

But if you were that same club owner looking to win a one-off game to lift a trophy where you need to win at all costs, then many would not look further than Mourinho.

- Compiled by Baden Gillion