How Jose Mourinho almost became Barcelona boss a decade ago… before they opted for Pep Guardiola instead
The Special One met Barca hierarchy in 2008 as they were about to dispense with boss Frank Rijkaard and even gave a PowerPoint presentation about how the La Liga side would look under his guidance.
The Barcelona board were split over whether to appoint Mourinho, who was on his sabbatical after being axed by Chelsea the year earlier.
But the crucial intervention of club legend Johan Cruyff – a former player and manager – swung it in favour of Guardiola, then in charge of Barcelona B.
Details of the boardroom talks are revealed in a new documentary, Take The Ball, Pass The Ball, which is out today.
Joan Laporta, Barcelona president between 2003 and 2010, said: “It was a long process because there were board members who wanted Mourinho.
“They argued that we needed a manager who would get results quickly.
“Given there were four or five directors keen on Mourinho the vice president organised a meeting with him and off he went.”
Marc Ingla, the former Catalans’ vice-president, said: “Mourinho is a winner and it felt like a safe choice.
“It was a big brand. He was recently the coach at Chelsea and was on the market.
“By that time, he was employing the 4-3-3. He even prepared a PowerPoint with some pitch positions of the players and typical movements. I’m sure he would have been successful.”
The club were looking for someone who embodied the club’s passing and possession philosophy passed on down by Cruyff.
Mourinho had the right credentials, having worked as an assistant coach at Barcelona between 1996 and 2000.
Yet star midfielder Xavi says that Mourinho’s philosophy of the game changed during his time at Stamford Bridge.
Xavi noted: “It’s a very different style to the football we play at Barca."
Victor Valdes, the retired Barcelona goalkeeper, says Guardiola quickly emerged as the surprise choice despite his limited coaching experience.
Valdes, who finished his career in 2017 with Middlesbrough, explained: “The president and Johan Cruyff were good friends and Laporta had complete confidence in Johan’s opinion.
“Johan told him the man for the job was training the youth team. All he needed to do was promote him.”
Laporta added: “I asked [the board] if they thought Pep was ready and both Txiki Begiristain and Johan who saw him regularly said he was.
“Mourinho’s agent called me and said: ‘Are you going to appoint Mourinho or not? Because if you’re interested we need to talk.’
“And I said to him: ‘No. Jorge. We’ve chosen Pep Guardiola.’
“So I told Pep that I wanted him to be the next manager if the season didn’t end well.
“We were having lunch and Pep, half in jest, said to me: ‘If you appoint me as coach I’ll win everything for you!’ He honestly said that!”
Guardiola’s appointment was an inspired one as he won 14 trophies in four seasons, including two Champions League titles [2009 and 2011]. This time is often regarded as one of the greatest spells in football club management.
Xavi added: “When I heard Guardiola would be our new manager I knew that everything would go well.
“I hadn’t worked with him as a coach but we were team-mates and I knew what a perfectionist he was. And I thought this is going to be great!”
*Take The Ball, Pass The Ball is out now in OurScreen Cinemas, and on DVD & Digital Download from November 12.
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