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Clash of Two Titans: Inter Milan vs. Barcelona

With the Champions League set to return next week, we’re taking a look back at perhaps the biggest clash between two football philosophies in the past decade. We’re, of course, talking about Jose Mourinho’s Inter taking on Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League semi-final—a two-legged affair that shaped modern football as we know it today. 

The Showdown

The prospect of this match-up had us all on the edge of our seats. Both teams were at the peak of their powers. For Inter, victory would have meant they were one step closer to capturing a trophy that had eluded them for 45 years. For Barça, it was a shot at immortality and a chance to become one of the select few teams to win back-to-back European Cups.

It was also a battle of contrasting ideologies. The ever pragmatic Mourinho was fully committed to the defensive Catenaccio style. Guardiola’s men, meanwhile, mastered the art of Total Football, dissecting teams with surgical precision.

The Superhuman Concentration

Inter was faced with the herculean task of defending against a young Messi, and when Barça went 1-0 up at the San Siro, it looked as though the Catalans were going to run away with it. Mourinho’s team was well prepared, however, and took this setback in stride, eventually scoring three unanswered goals, leaving the seemingly invincible Barça reeling.

Mourinho’s mind games unsettled the Catalans, but in the second leg, his Inter team would need superhuman concentration to come out of a raucous Camp Nou unscathed. Inter players put their bodies on the line and despite Barça scoring once, the Italians held on to book their ticket to the final where they would defeat Bayern to secure a historic treble.

The Enduring Legacy

The impact this upset had on football was seismic. This was one of the last occasions where a defensive-minded approach won anything of consequence as ideas of attacking football swept across Europe.

This was also the beginning of a heated rivalry between Mourinho and Pep that carried over to epic Real Madrid and Barcelona clashes—and they’re still going at it in the Premier League.

Mourinho will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches of the 2000s and 2010s, and even though his playing style has been bested by Pep’s tactical display on multiple occasions, the 2010 Champions League semi-final will always serve as a reminder of what Mourinho was capable of in his prime.

Ten years later, the two managers have to, once again, prove their worth in the Champions League. Mourinho is seeking redemption, while Guardiola is trying to finally gain entry to that select group of managers that have won the tournament with more than one team. In different ways, they both have their legacies at stake.


Bonus: Here’s a great analysis from The Coaches’ Voice on how Mourinho planned the perfect European night at home against Barcelona.


Illustration by @inakivector.

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