When it came to the Lionel Messi question, Jose Mourinho did not see exactly eye-to-eye with Pep Guardiola. No surprise there, then.
Guardiola shrugged and claimed there was little sense in planning because there was no way of stopping Messi if he was in the mood. That was just before Bayern Munich were destroyed by Barcelona’s little Argentine genius.
Mourinho, however, insisted that all coaches had a duty to try and stop him, even if there would be times when they would fail, and he concluded that the best way to deploy someone as a man-to-man marker.
‘I always planned to play against him, always,’ said Mourinho. ‘Every time I played against Messi I spent hours studying and trying to stop him. Many times, we were successful. Other times we were not successful.
‘With Inter (in 2010), we stopped him in both matches: Inter-Barcelona and Barcelona-Inter. The best way to do it is man-to-man because that is better than involving everyone.
‘When you go man-to-man you go with similar power – although man-to-man with him is an impossible job. Like I say, sometimes I was successful, sometimes I was not. I played against him so many times. Dozens and dozens of times.’
One of Messi’s first games for Barcelona was against Mourinho’s Porto and their paths have continued to cross often in European competition and in Spanish football when the Chelsea manager was in charge for three years at Real Madrid.
‘Every time I was thinking about giving him a difficult match,’ said Mourinho. ‘I am not saying stop him. It is not about stopping him but giving him a difficult match.
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