Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said he was ‘a bit annoyed’ by Barcelona earlier this month – but Lionel Messi was not quite as polite in 2006.
The Camp Nou legend, in no uncertain terms, described an incomparable hatred between the two European rivals – and one that has been reignited this summer.
“There are players here who hate Chelsea more than Real Madrid,” Messi told the News of the World when he was 19.
“I never thought I would hear myself say that.
“I also never thought I would see something worse than the Boca and River Plate rivalry or Brazil v Argentina – but this is.
“We would rather play Arsenal, Manchester United or anyone else than be on the pitch with Chelsea.”
When it comes to negotiating transfers, the Blues must be feeling that way about the Catalans right now.
Spanish outlet SPORT ran with the headline ‘Barcelona 5-0 Chelsea’ after the LaLiga giants emerged as the favorites to sign Jules Kounde from Sevilla.
This is despite Chelsea agreeing a £55 million deal – and it is not the first time that has happened this summer.
The Blues thought they had secured the signing of Raphinha from Leeds for £60m, only for Barca to hijack that deal as well.
They also snapped up free agent Andreas Christensen, who opted for the Camp Nou instead of a new deal at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea were hoping Ousmane Dembele might head in the opposite direction when his Barca contract expired, but the French forward ended up agreeing to fresh terms.
The Blues also missed out on Robert Lewandowski – no prizes for guessing where the Poland superstar ended up.
And just to twist the knife, Barca are trying to lure Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta and fellow defender Marcos Alonso to Spain.
It is understood Chelsea are blocking those deals as a result of the Kounde hijack – and it is beginning to feel like 2006 all over again.
Bad blood between the two sides appeared to have simmered down, with just two meetings in the last ten years.
However, between 2005 and 2012, they featured in four Champions League knockout ties which went down in history.
Although it is unusual for rivalries in football to travel across borders, familiarity breeds contempt, nor does a totally different belief system.
It all started during Jose Mourinho’s first spell at Stamford Bridge – and Didier Drogba was at the center of it – when they traveled to the Nou Camp for a last-16 clash in 2005.
Mourinho’s men were leading the first leg at half-time, before Anders Frisk gave Drogba a controversial red card which turned the game on its head.
The Chelsea manager sensationally (and wrongly) accused Frisk of meeting with Barca boss Frank Rijkaard at half-time – and the referee later received death threats from angry fans, forcing an early retirement aged 42.
And Mourinho didn’t rest there when it came to his mind games.
Before the second leg, Mourinho named the Barcelona starting XI as well as his Chelsea XI, getting Rijkaard’s team spot on – but deliberately getting his own wrong.
One of the all-time great Champions League clashes followed, as the Blues raced into a three-goal lead within 20 minutes – with Damien Duff among the scorers, even though Mourinho said Eidur Gudjohnsen would start over the Irishman.
They were pegged back by some Ronaldinho brilliance, featuring that iconic toe-poke, before John Terry capitalized on Ricardo Carvalho’s tug on Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes to send the Blues through.
It can’t get any more dramatic than that, right? Wrong. Mourinho’s comments about Frisk got him in hot water with UEFA, who banned the Chelsea boss from the dressing room and the touchline for two upcoming quarter-final legs against Bayern Munich.
However, in classic Mourinho style, the Portuguese manager snuck into Stamford Bridge in a laundry basket.
But back to the Barca rivalry. The Catalans would have their revenge in 2006 after another ill-termpered tie saw Asier del Horno sent off for a brutal tackle on Messi in the first leg – which sparked the Argentine’s comments.
Momentum shifted to Spain as Barca eliminated Chelsea – but the Blues did not have to wait long to get their own back.
They edged Barca to the top spot in the group stage in late 2006, with Drogba at the heart of it once again.
He scored the winner in a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge and equalized in the last minute in a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp.
Amazingly, the two rivals had not yet played their most iconic ties, and this was all just scene-setting for what was to come.
With Chelsea chasing an elusive European crown in 2009, they were denied by Barca in the most horrible circumstances.
The Blues were denied four clear penalties by referee Tom Henning Overbo – who has since admitted his mistakes – and got knocked out by a last-gasp Andres Iniesta volley.
Even Drogba famously ranted and swore at the TV cameras, it was arguably the most sickening moment in Chelsea history, made all the worse for the fact it was Barca going wild in front of the Shed End.
But it was also what made 2012 so much sweeter for Blues fans.
Another semi-final against the Catalans awaited, but few gave Chelsea a chance.
Even still, with a parked bus against the greatest team on earth, the Blues edged the first leg thanks to a goal from – yes, him again – Drogba.
Then Roberto Di Matteo’s side went to the Camp Nou and pulled off one of the most extraordinary triumphs in modern football.
Down to ten men after losing John Terry and needing a goal after Barca scored twice, Ramires popped up with a sumptuous chip from nowhere to hand Chelsea the advantage on away goals.
Not only did they hold on for an entire half without the ball, the Blues went and won the tie outright when Fernando Torres ran up the other end and sealed the deal in stoppage time.
You can imagine what the Spanish press thought of Chelsea’s tactics.
The nature of the win and what went before it made Chelsea feel like stars had aligned to right their wrongs – and it was only fitting that Drogba scored the equalizer and winning penalty against Bayern Munich in the final that year.
Six years passed and things were square between the two sides – until 2018 and Barca wiped the floor with Chelsea as Messi finally scored against them after numerous attempts.
Now that Chelsea’s entire summer has been ruined by Barca in the transfer market, those at Camp Nou can probably claim the upper hand.
But Blues fans would not swap that night in Spain ten years ago for any player – not even Messi himself.
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