With club football out of the headlines because of international matches and the first round of Champions League games less than a week away, it was almost inevitable that Jose Mourinho would come up with something to stir the publicity pot.
Chelsea's coach Jose Mourinho and Bayern Munich's coach Pep Guardiola. Pics/AFP
It was also no surprise that his comments were directed at Pep Guardiola, the man who had been in the Barcelona dugout when Mourinho coached Real Madrid. "When you enjoy what you do, you don't lose your hair, and Guardiola is bald," said Mourinho after a clash of opinion at a UEFA-organised coaches' meeting. "He doesn't enjoy football."
Both men have moved on from the El Clasico days, but the lack of warmth between them is still very apparent. Mourinho is now back at Chelsea, while Guardiola has been tasked with winning Bayern Munich a sixth Champions League title. Both men took their teams to the last four in 2013-14, but had to watch from the sidelines as Real and Atletico Madrid made the final a local affair.
They represent two vastly different shades of the coaching spectrum as well. Guardiola is the purist who wants his sides to dominate possession and run opponents ragged with a quick-passing, hard-pressing game. Mourinho's sides are not obsessed with taking care of the ball, and rely more on striking on the counter attack.
Mourinho's methods didn't win him too many admirers at the Santiago Bernabeu. Jorge Valdano, a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1986, was director general of football at Real when Mourinho took over in the summer of 2010. Their tempestuous association lasted just a season.
Valdano was the one to lose his job, and in his new book – The 11 Powers of a League – he has slated the Mourinho way of setting up teams. "He's a figure who is perfectly suited to these bombastic, shallow times," writes Valdano. "I couldn't understand him because he is in the antithesis of my sensitivity. Intelligence and ego are enemies. And when they collide, the ego wins."
Guardiola far better
In Valdano's eyes, Guardiola, who dominated both the domestic and European scene with one of the greatest club sides of all time — winning the Champions League in 2009 and 2011 — was by far the better coach. "If Guardiola is Mozart, that makes Mourinho (Antonio) Salieri. He would have been a great musician if Mozart had never existed.
"I've never heard him (Mourinho) say a single thing about football worth remembering, whether in public or in private." Both Chelsea and Bayern will be among the hot favourites when club football's premier competition resumes in a couple of days. The other two sides likely to challenge for a place in the Berlin final are the ones Mourinho and Guardiola once coached, Real and Barcelona.
Real sold Angel Di Maria, the key figure in their come-from-behind win against Atletico last May, but have strengthened with the addition of Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez. As for Barcelona, the capture of Luis Suarez from Liverpool gives them a potential front three — Lionel Messi and Neymar — that will terrify opposition defenders.
The man to watch may well be on the touchline though. Luis Enrique won 62 caps for Spain, but his club career was marked by the tendency to be in the right places at the wrong times. His five years with Real (1991 to '96) coincided with a period of Barca dominance, while the time he spent at the Nou Camp (1996 to 2004) saw Real win the Champions League three times.
Enrique, a year Guardiola's senior, played alongside him for Barcelona, but the biggest prize in the game eluded him. After a chequered managerial career that has already taken in Barcelona 'B' (during the Guardiola golden age), Roma and Celta Vigo, he now has the responsibility of leading Barcelona back to the Promised Land.
It won't be easy, especially with his former teammate desperate to reprise his Barca success at Bayern, but Enrique's hunger and the Suarez acquisition could well make it the Blaugrana's year.
The number of Champions League titles won by Jose Mourinho as coach (2004 Porto & 2010 Inter Milan)