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Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho And The Game That Changed Everything2 min read

Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho And The Game That Changed Everything<span class="wtr-time-wrap after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">2</span> min read</span>

A decision in time sends history down two very different tracks.

In 1998, a Hollywood film starring Gwyneth Paltrow catapulted the term ‘Sliding Doors’ into popular lexicon.

Ten years later, football had its own Sliding Doors moment.

In the summer of 2008, Barcelona – managed by Frank Rijkaard – were a club stalled and set to fall.

A second trophyless season in succession had ended with Barca third in La Liga and suffering ignominy at the Bernabeu.

With Real Madrid confirmed as champions in the days before, Barcelona had to give their arch-rivals a guard of honour on to the pitch before their league meeting.

The embarrassment didn’t stop there. A 4-1 thrashing followed, with the Madrid fans chanting “Laporta please stay!” to Barca’s under-pressure president Joan Laporta.

Off the pitch, dressing-room ringleader Ronaldinho was spending more time in the city’s nightclubs than banging in goals.

Team discipline seemed to have drained away, with stories of the Brazilian being left to get his head down and sleep off the night’s excesses rather than knuckle down in training.

Questions over Ronaldinho’s weight gain, and penchant for a night out, peppered the front and back pages of Barcelona’s newspapers while in press conferences, every question directed at Rijkaard included the word “resign”.

With the Madrid fans’ catcalls still ringing in his ears, Laporta provided his own answer.

Less than 24 hours after the embarrassment in Madrid, Rijkaard was sacked.

Who would replace him?

Top of the billing, and top of the list for any football pragmatist, was Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho had a positive historical relationship with the club as assistant to previous managers Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal.

He also had a CV surpassing anyone else in Europe at the time, following Uefa Cup and Champions League triumphs with Porto, and successive and unprecedented Premier League titles with Chelsea.

But, rather than opt for the A-list football celebrity, Barcelona opted for someone from the B-list. Literally.

They chose their own B team manager, who was entirely unproven at the top level, and had spent the previous campaign – his first as a boss – in Spain’s fourth tier and a Catalan regional division.