During the tail end of the 2000s and the start of the 2010s, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola engaged in one of the best rivalries of all time. Firstly at Inter Milan and Barcelona, and then at Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Mourinho and Guardiola went back a long way – having both initially worked at Barcelona. Based on the words of other coaches of Barcelona at the time, it was no surprise that the duo went on to become two of the most decorated managers of all time.

One of the earliest meetings came between Inter Milan and Barcelona in 2010. In one of the most iconic pictures of all time, Mourinho is seen whispering something in Guardiola’s ear while he passes on instructions to his star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Many have wondered what Mourinho said to Guardiola at the time. Now, Mourinho has revealed what he said, and how it was key to the overall victory for his Inter Milan side.

The iconic image

Inter Milan v. Barcelona

Two of the superpowers of European football at the time – Inter Milan and Barcelona – met in the semi-final of the Champions League. In the first leg, Inter Milan won 3-1, after coming from behind.

During the second leg, the tie was delicately poised when Thiago Motta controversially got sent off. The image of Sergio Busquets rolling around theatrically angered any true football fan.

Mourinho explained that when Motta was sent off, the “Barcelona dugout celebrated like it was a goal”. Mourinho explains that in that moment, he felt that “they were feeling the job is done”.

Seconds later, Guardiola called his striker Ibrahimovic over for a tactical discussion. This led to one of the most iconic pictures of all time to take place. As Guardiola spoke to Ibrahimovic, Mourinho walked over, leant over Guardiola and said something in his ear.

Mourinho explains he went over to say “you think that it’s over, but it’s far from over”. Mourinho said he had done this “maybe to motivate myself, or to tell them it’s not the night you think it’s going to be”.

This war cry seemed to be reflected on the pitch, as his Inter Milan side resolutely dug in and produced a defensive masterclass. For over an hour, Inter Milan repelled all Barcelona attacks, and despite conceding to a Gerard Pique goal, they held on to win the match and go through to the final – winning 3-2 on aggregate.

As Mourinho put it, “to play against Barcelona for an hour with ten players in a Champions League semi-final, in a stadium with 100k fans was an incredible achievement for us”.

At the time of the final whistle, Mourinho famously ran onto the pitch, fist in the air, celebrating the monumental victory. Again, this produced an iconic sight which has been replayed time after time.

Mourinho said that “the sprinklers came on to clean the blood”. Continuing, he said “my players left blood on the pitch”. They certainly did everything they could to get them to the final.

Courtesy of @HellasF1 on YouTube

Inter Milan complete the treble

Inter Milan would then beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in the final. This represented Inter’s first Champions League victory in 45 years.

At the time of writing, no Italian team has won the Champions League since. This underlines Mourinho’s brilliance at the club.

Inter Milan won the treble that season, in one of the most memorable campaigns for the club. Mourinho continues to be widely respected by most at the club.

What happened next?

Mourinho departed Inter Milan within days of securing the treble. He moved to Spain to manage Real Madrid. He was reunited with Guardiola, who remained in charge of Barcelona.

The duo had an intense rivalry, which saw both claim league titles. There were frosty relations between the two clubs and managers for many years.

They would later reunite in England, with Guardiola managing Manchester City, and Mourinho managing Manchester United. Here, Guardiola came out on top.

Zlatan’s impact

As for the third person in the picture – Zlatan Ibrahimovic – he has had plenty to say on the topic of Guardiola and Mourinho. Despite playing for Guardiola at the time, he has since criticised the Spaniard, and instead praised Mourinho.

Following the final whislte, Zlatan said about how he “completely lost it” at Guardiola, who he labelled a “spineless coward”:

I yelled: ‘You haven’t got any b***s!’ and worse than that I added: ‘You can go to hell!’ I completely lost it, and you might have expected Guardiola to say a few words in response, but he’s a spineless coward.”

Zlatan said that “Mourinho lights up a room”, while Guardiola “draws the curtains”. He also criticised Guardiola for not treating him like the “Ferrari” that he was.

Zlatan and Mourinho had worked together at Inter from 2008-09. They were then reunited at Manchester United in 2016 – where they had a successful partnership.

The Takeaway

Both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have provided football fans with years of entertainment. Their rivalry will be discussed for decades to come.

This photo will be remembered as depicting one of Jose Mourinho’s finest nights in football. A true legend of the game – Mourinho will never be forgotten.