Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Who's the Better Manager, Pep or Jose?

This is an interesting question which many football fans have argued over for a few years now, with Pep having just quit Barcelona and Mourinho about to manage in his third season at Real. In many ways, this debate is just as interesting as the Messi vs Ronaldo debate, but perhaps less discussed and certainly much less tedious that the debate surrounding the two best players in world football. In many ways, the two managers reflect the two individuals they are managing, or in Pep's case, managed. Like Ronaldo, Mourinho has been well traveled with stints in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain currently. In Guardiola's case, he has been a one club man like Messi. Mourinho has been a top flight manager for 12 years whereas Pep has been Barca head coach for just four. While this does not necessarily mean that Jose has learned more throughout his career and therefore has accumulated more knowledge than Pep, it does mean that by definition, Jose is more experienced than Pep in that regard. Whatever your opinion is, it is hard to argue that Jose has experienced different tactical cultures and other things not related to anything on the football field, for instance, the media, supporters and even different styles of referees. While these factors certainly do make anyone a great manager on its own, it certainly contrasts with Pep's only experiences of these kind being restricted to Champions League games. Taking these things into consideration we can now start to judge more important things like results and style.

Let's start with the style of teams that these managers have gotten their teams to play. It is quite blatantly obvious that there is one clear winner here: Barcelona. Pep got his team to play football that has not been seen since Johan Cruyff's Dream Team. Pep is quite well known as a believer in the possession orientated philosophy, but one thing is to dream and another to actually implement and achieve. With players like Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Alves and Messi in his team, Pep redefined the term "possession football." He managed 246 games in four years and his side have had at least 50% possession in every one of those games, quite incredible. But was this the result of Pep's brilliant skills as a coach or was it simply that he inherited an unbelievable group of talented footballers. I would tend to steer clear of accusing Pep as a lucky man who happened to stumble across these said players. There are countless examples of teams who have had a great bunch of talented players but could not produce football to match. Pep is a smart man and he figured a way integrate and mold the players to produce the football they do. Perhaps his biggest quality is that he believes in a single philosophy and would never change it. His belief in this system and the way he made his players believe in it as well was the crucial element and the starting point of the making of his team. To go along with style, he has overseen a team that has won a total of 14 trophies including 3 Liga titles and 2 Champions League titles. It also included the famous sextuplet in his first season as head coach. It is these trophies which has led to the labeling of this edition of Barca as the best ever. While Pep's records are undeniably impressive, Mourinho has won more trophies in his career, a total of 19 including seven league titles across four countries. This equates to 1.58 trophies per season for Jose and 3.5 for Pep. While Pep's average is better, I point to the fact that Mourinho has had 8 years longer as coach than Pep and he has won trophies in four different countries. While the value of each manager's trophy tally is debatable, most people would agree that Mourinho's influence on his teams in terms of aesthetic style is dwarfed by his Catalan counterpart. Mourinho famously made his Chelsea team a highly organised and extremely watertight in defence. In 185 games in charge of Chelsea, they conceded a miserly 119 goals which is a very low number. This theme has continued across his time at Inter and Real Madrid with a prime example of this defensive prioritisation represented in the 2010 Champions League semi-final first second leg between Pep's Barca and Mou's Inter. That night, Inter defended for their lives and Barca completely dominated the game. Eventually, Inter made it through courtesy of the first leg result. In many ways that game summed up the two managers perfectly. Mourinho wanted to get the desired result no matter the method while Pep stuck to his guns and failed, or more like refused to adapt, like a child who refuses to eat his spinach. Ultimately, Jose is a master tactician but Pep is a purist of the highest order.

Whatever may bring Pep in the future, his time at Barcelona has revolusionised the old philosophy of tiki-taka football and brought in into the modern context. Jose on the other hand has revolutionised football coaching for different reasons- by being one thing: a winner. I guess it comes down to personal preference in terms of what kind of football you want to see. In fact, Jose's Madrid actually play quite nice attacking football so there might not be reason to doubt the prettiness of his teams' football, but that's for another post!  At the proverbial end of the day, I love football and I understand football. So in that sense I appreciate Mourinho just as much as I appreciate Guardiola and I appreciate Pep just as much as I appreciate Jose. So who's better? Who cares. They're both awesome!

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