Jose Mourinho has credited Barcelona forward Lionel Messi for making him a better manager.
The 56-year-old Portuguese tactician is currently unemployed having last coached Manchester United.
Mourinho v Barcelona: Five key things to know…
- Mourinho has faced Barcelona on no fewer than 27 occasions as manager.
- Those meetings have come whilst representing Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
- He’s picked up eight wins, but has also suffered 10 defeats, with nine draws.
- The bulk of those wins have come as Real Madrid coach (five).
- And planning to combat Messi, according to Mourinho, has made him a better manager.
His tenure at Old Trafford came to an end last December following a disappointing start to their 2018/19 campaign.
It means for the first time in an illustrious managerial career, which yielded success in four different countries, he begins a season not sitting in the dugout.
Among the many clubs he’s served, Real Madrid employed him for three seasons – a period that saw some of the most heated Clasico battles with arch-rivals Barcelona.
Despite coaching some of the world’s greatest players, Mourinho feels setting up plans against five-time Ballon d’Or recipient Messi truly enhanced his skills.
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“I always say that I owe so much to my players, and to those who haven’t been my players but those who created problems for me,” he told EFE.
“For example, Messi never played for my team, but he played against me and he has made me a better coach for having to prepare matches [to stop him]. When I say Messi, I also mean the other great players I’ve faced.”
Does a La Liga return beckon for Mourinho?
Mourinho spent three seasons at Real Madrid winning La Liga in his second campaign having accumulated a record tally of 100 points.
During that period he’d also finish runner-up to Barcelona, averaging 88.5 points across the years, however Champions League failure would ultimately see him leave the Spanish capital.
Despite the souring end, Mourinho looks back on his time in Spain fondly, but is hesitant about committing to a return.
“Real Madrid was my best experience because of what I learned as a coach, as a man, from the lessons I took in my career and in my life. It was the best memory of my career. It was fantastic,” he said.
“I came to Spain because I wanted to be the first to win the English league, the Italian league and the Spanish league. We won the league in Bilbao. Actually we won it at Camp Nou, but mathematically we won it at San Mames.
“You’ll always have me. In six years, I’ve only spoken well of La Liga. I’ll always be proud to have won your league in a moment when it was especially difficult.”