Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have redefined the footballing rivalry courtesy of their quirky and cordial relation on and off the football pitch.

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What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? This is the exact scenario when Pep Guardiola - manager of the champions of England - and Jurgen Klopp - the champion of Europe - square off on a matchday or at a football gala in a remote part of the European continent. 

But despite their bitter rivalry on the pitch, Guardiola and Klopp have been subtle in their outings and have displayed immense admiralty for each other. A feat unheard of, given the times we’ve grown up in. Yes, we are pointing towards Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho. 

Given the nature of the job, a feeling of mutual respect can easily turn into enmity but as far as the present goes, Guardiola and Klopp have seemed to find a way to keep their emotions in check, spewing out only words of affection towards each other. Funnily, this talked about rivalry today started six years back in Germany when the Catalonian manager arrived on the German shores after a prolific spell with Barcelona.

Not so long ago 

At the time, Klopp oversaw Borussia Dortmund, having turned them into the leading title contenders in Bundesliga along with the German behemoth, Bayern Munich. But the most revered rivalry in the world of football today only began when Guardiola decided to spread his wings in England. Marking his territory, Guardiola transformed the length and breadth of English football with Manchester City by lifting the domestic treble and taunting Liverpool at every go. 

The past two seasons have been a complete trepidation whenever Manchester City and Liverpool come face to face. It’s a classic encounter of possession-based play led by the Citizens under the watchful guidance of Guardiola, while the Reds tend to resort to ‘gegenpressing’, a style that requires incessant pressing even from your forwards.

However, Klopp has outclassed Guardiola on multiple occasions, extending the tally of wins in his favour but the Spaniard has been able to lift more trophies than his counterpart during his short stint in England. In a recently held event of the Football Writers Association in Manchester, the two jokingly confronted each other about exchanging the trophies that they have won in their tenure here.

The pain of missing out on the Champions League glory since 2011 was prevalent on Guardiola’s face and Klopp seemed desperate to end Liverpool’s league title drought that has been going for almost three decades.  

It’s not always sunny in England

Despite their pleasantries, the duo does not shy away from getting involved in the pre-game theatrics, especially Guardiola whose sub-standard remarks about Sadio Mane’s diving antics which wasn’t received well at the Merseyside. Although Liverpool emerged victorious 3-1 against the current Premier League champions at Anfield last month, this banter clearly displayed a vicious side of the rivalry. 

The remarks were a blatant attempt to bring the morale down of the opponent, but Klopp’s response was nothing short of spitting out straight venom by bringing up tactical fouls, something which City have been criticized for in the past.

Liverpool stand tall at the top of the table with the gap now widened to 11 points between the European champions and the current Premier League holders. This battle may not be straight out of the playbook of Wenger–Alex Ferguson or Mourinho–Wenger days but it surely erects and poses a picture of a battle half fought with decades left in this ongoing war in the English Premier League between the German and the Spaniard.  

Feature image courtesy: AFP/ Paul Ellis