What they said: The 11 players to work for Mourinho and Guardiola

Quick Reads

Alexis Sanchez is set to become the 12th player to work for both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Here’s what the other 11 have said about the now Manchester United and Manchester City managers…

There’s no single recipe for success in football. Different management styles suit different players. Paternal motivators, ego wranglers, fear merchants, orchestral conductors ‒ they all have their place.

As much as any moment of skill, it’s the game of chess in the technical area that makes football compelling. Sometimes styles clash and it spills over into something altogether more personal.

For the past decade, there’s been no better rivalry than the fire and ice stylings of Mourinho and Guardiola. It’s the ultimate tussle between idealism and pragmatism.

There is, however, some overlap. For Guardiola or Mourinho to get the best out of their squad, they need total buy-in from the players. Commitment and discipline are not negotiable.

It’s an elite sliver of Venn diagram that houses the shared assets of the Spaniard and Portuguese. Here’s a selection of quotes from those with first-hand experience of working for both.

Xabi Alonso

Games under Guardiola: 79

Goals: 6

Trophies: 4

– “At Bayern, we played 90 minutes in the opposition half. I did not have to cover so much ground, I kept my position and made smaller efforts. In the last years, it was very good for me. And I learned so much. It was very enriching.”

– “Most of Pep’s teams try to attack in a small space, and to defend in a bigger space. That’s the difficult part of football. People tend to think of Pep as just focusing on attacking, but I say it’s the opposite. He thinks more about defence. I’ve seen footage of Sergio Aguero running back, David Silva pressing, and I’m sure he’s changing that mentality and intensity at City.”

Games under Mourinho: 151

Goals: 3

Trophies: 5

– “[Mourinho] is 100 per cent competitive and wants to win. He squeezes out what he doesn’t like to get what he wants.”

– “[At Real] There were phases of the game when we were not dominant, but we were in control. For example, there was a feeling that every corner against us was a chance for us. When we countered…with Mesut, who seemed weak but could carry the ball 30 yards brutally, Cristiano ran up the opposite side knowing that he would get the ball at the end of the move.”

Kevin De Bruyne

Games under Guardiola: 80*

Goals: 15

Trophies: 0

– “He’s intense and detailed. Everybody knows what they have to do with the ball and without the ball. I never had a manager so detailed in every moment and aspect of the game, and saying what to do. Some trainers just say whatever, ‘just play’.

“There’s a certain freedom here, but a lot of discipline. The more you come up the pitch, the more freedom there is. In the first 60 metres of the pitch, everybody knows exactly what they need to do to help the team go up. Everybody has to be in position or run to make options for the other guys, and that’s why we can play so much from the back.”

Games under Mourinho: 9

Goals: 0

Trophies: 0

– “It’s true that he said in the press that I wasn’t doing what was needed in training. It was easy to say that because there was no-one to check it ‒ the training sessions were closed to the public…But at that moment, I couldn’t do anything because he would have said I was lying and afterwards he would have used it. Did I ask for training to be done in public? I said it, yes, but not to him personally.”

– “Mourinho told me he wasn’t keen to let me go, not even on loan. But what could I do more?”

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READ: Kevin De Bruyne needs to stop being so bloody good – but we know why he is

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Samuel Eto’o

Games under Guardiola: 52

Goals: 36

Trophies: 3

– “As a trainer, he had nothing to show me. He came in, didn’t know the story of the dressing room and said certain things…Pep, perhaps in his desire to win, didn’t respect certain things in football.”

– “Guardiola has never had the courage to say things in front of me. He passed by the players. Xavi told me they wanted me to stay, but I had to talk to Pep. I said, ‘Never, if you don’t respect me, I don’t respect you.’”

Games under Mourinho: 83

Goals: 28

Trophies: 3

– “It’s true that in terms of motivation he is unique. I have worked with plenty of coaches, but Jose is incredible. As a match approaches, he becomes someone else. It’s true that, like everyone, he is human. He is sometimes eccentric. He loses it sometimes like he did with me. But he is someone who never says something against his players. He takes all the pressure on himself.”

– “Jose has changed a lot. I discovered someone exceptional when I came to Inter. At Chelsea, it was already a bit difficult…Let’s be clear: I’ve nothing against Jose. He is able to pick someone, tell him ‘you are the best’ and he’ll have a very good game. But football is evolving.”

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READ: Samuel Eto’o: Criminally underrated and the REAL star of Inter v Spurs

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Cesc Fabregas

Games under Guardiola: 48

Goals: 15

Trophies: 4

– “Guardiola has always been my idol since childhood. I played in his position and I noticed him. My coach even gave me a shirt signed by him.”

– “With Pep, obviously I learned a different way to understand football tactically in terms of team effort. But we were playing with great players so it becomes a little bit easier in terms of winning titles.”

Games under Mourinho: 69

Goals: 6

Trophies: 2

– “Mourinho makes me feel very important within the team. He allows me to play the way I feel. He makes me feel things that I haven’t felt for a while. To feel important, to play every game. I feel like he trusts me. Sometimes he allows me to give speeches.”

– “I learned a lot from him, his passion for football, his character, his ambition to always win. It’s not easy. The way he pushes his players to improve every day is what impresses me the most.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Games under Guardiola: 46

Goals: 22

Trophies: 5

– “I told Guardiola that he’d sacrificed the other players for Messi. He told me he understood me. After that, he put me on the bench for the next game, the one after that and the one after that. I’d walk into a room and he’d walk out. I’d go to meet him and he’d go somewhere else. I understood that there was something beyond football.”

– “I remember on my first day, he told me that the Barcelona players didn’t turn up to training in Ferraris or Porsches. He’d already judged me then, but if you don’t know a person then you can’t judge them. I had my experience with him, I don’t know about others. He wasn’t the worst coach I’d worked under, but he was certainly the most immature because a man solves his problems.”

Games under Mourinho: 100*

Goals: 58

Trophies: 4

– “Mourinho is the disciplinarian. Everything with him is a mind game ‒ he likes to manipulate. Such tricks were new for me ‒ all the time doing one thing to get another thing, all the time triggering me. I like these games and it worked for me.”

– “That guy says whatever he wants. I like him. He’s the leader of his army. But he cares, too. He would text me all the time at Inter, wondering how I was doing. He’s the exact opposite of Pep Guardiola. If Mourinho lights up a room, Guardiola draws the curtains. Mourinho would become a guy I was basically willing to die for.”

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READ: A guy visited Malmo to see every place mentioned in Zlatan’s autobiography

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Eidur Gudjohnsen

Games under Guardiola: 34

Goals: 4

Trophies: 5

– “Guardiola is more obsessed with the way that his team plays. He is more timid and doesn’t like confrontation.”

– “I just remember what Guardiola said to us again and again. He went through it all and said, ‘Listen boys, this is how we are going to win the final’. Then he set up the team and convinced us, just put it in our mindset that we were going to win it. And that was it. It turned out almost exactly how he said it would.”

Games under Mourinho: 94

Goals: 19

Trophies: 3

– “Mourinho is more chest-out ‘come and get it if you want’. He likes a bit of confrontation and a bit of discussion – and a heated discussion at that.”

– “The press were saying how strict he was and how it was going to be like the army for us for the next few years. Instead, he walked in and showed us a sort of map of what he expected of every individual and how we would work together as a group. A few of us looked at each other that day and said, ‘We’re going to win the league this year’ ‒ and that was just one meeting.”

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READ: 11 times fathers and sons linked up on the field: Cruyff, Ince, Maldini & more

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Games under Guardiola: 89

Goals: 2

Trophies: 10

– “Guardiola is a great man. He always explains to me what he wants and his manners are really calm and polite. It is much better to have this type of coach than one who doesn’t say anything to you.”

– “He stays close to the players, much more than Mourinho does. Maybe it is because he only recently stopped playing football.”

Games under Mourinho: 33

Goals: 1

Trophies: 2

– “The two coaches are very demanding, but with a different mentality and entirely different character. Guardiola is closer and has a gentler way of saying things. I talk to Guardiola after practice and he explains things very quietly and slowly, that’s much better than having a coach who will not say anything.”

– Mino Raiola: “Maxwell’s problem is not Santon, but Mourinho. My client does not want to respect the rest of his contract under Mourinho and prefers to move elsewhere. Maxwell has been badly pushed aside by Mourinho. He did not like the way this situation was handled.”


Games under Guardiola: 167

Goals: 58

Trophies: 20

– “Pep has given his all for the team. He has changed my life.”

– “He is faithful to his ideas and he can convince his players to change the philosophy of direct play by playing more elaborate football.”

Games under Mourinho: 17

Goals: 3

Trophies: None

– “He is very different face-to-face. He treats you like one of his family. He values and respects his players and demands much from them.”

– “The truth is that one has an image of him that when you know him, changes a lot. It’s not what it seems. I like the way Mourinho works. I feel comfortable. He has a positive and winning mentality. I am delighted because I like nothing better than winning.”

Claudio Pizarro

Games under Guardiola: 43

Goals: 12

Trophies: Five

– “It takes time to understand what he wants. I’ve been in football a long time and I’ve never had a coach who makes so many changes. For the strikers it’s a bit easier – we just need to put defenders under pressure up front, that’s what he wants.”

Games under Mourinho: 5

Goals: 1

Trophies: None

– “Unfortunately I only had the chance to work with him for a short while. I didn’t really have the chance to show him what I could do.”

Arjen Robben

Games under Guardiola: 97

Goals: 47

Trophies: 8

– “When I started working with Pep…I noticed how he goes much deeper into football. His intelligence is obvious. Tactically he’s one of the best in the world and under him I have made more steps in my development.”

– “The way he wants to play, with a very dominant style, suits me perfectly. And you can discuss anything with him. If it’s 3am, Pep would be happy to talk to you about football.”

Games under Mourinho: 105

Goals: 19

Trophies: 6

– “When I met Mourinho, I was still very young, but mentally and tactically, he worked on me. He was really demanding; you could not take a step below your level.”

– “It was very good to work with him at that age because I was young and with Mourinho you have to be mentally very strong. You have to jump on the train with him or you’re off. So it was great for my development.”

By Charlie Lawry

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