When Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola shared the Bundesliga summit, the German coach was at pains to downplay any specific rivalry with his Catalan counterpart.
"Pep isn't my rival," Klopp, then in charge of Borussia Dortmund, insisted.
"I'm up against another 16 teams, so in reality, each of us has 17 rivals, not just one."
Yet, for all his hollow protestations, Klopp and Guardiola have most regularly been competing directly against one another when sharing the same domestic league.
Guardiola, for what it's worth, very much considers it a rivalry, ranking his ongoing battle against Liverpool from the helm of Manchester City alongside some of the greatest ever seen in any sport.
Klopp has tasted the sweet nectar of success against Guardiola more often than any other coach in history. The German may publicly claim that it is a head-to-head like any other, but he certainly took plenty of pleasure from his greatest wins against Guardiola.
Borussia Dortmund 4-2 Bayern Munich - July 2013
The first-ever managerial meeting between Klopp and Guardiola was overpowered by a glut of competing narrative arcs. Not only was this the first Klassiker since Mario Gotze ditched Klopp and his boyhood club for Munich - "You're making a mistake," Klopp had warned him - but it was a rematch of the 2013 Champions League final just 63 days earlier.
Jupp Heynckes had overseen Bayern's triumph in that showpiece at Wembley and Guardiola suffered the wrath of Dortmund's revenge. Boasting just a third of possession, Dortmund repeatedly sliced through Bayern on the counter. Not for the last time, Guardiola was forced to concede that Klopp had simply been in charge of the better team.
Bayern Munich 0-3 Borussia Dortmund - April 2014
Bayern Munich had collected 40 points from a possible 42 across Guardiola's first 14 Bundesliga home games by the time Klopp led Dortmund into the Allianz Arena.
Guardiola's team had already wrapped up the league title but Dortmund's rampant victory was heartily deserved and against a full-strength XI. Even so, Guardiola blamed a sense of complacency among the champions. "Today has been a total f***-up," he concluded. Not for Klopp.
Almost a decade on, it remains Dortmund's last league victory in Munich.
Liverpool 4-3 Man City - January 2018
Klopp delivered the most accurate assessment of a bonkers bout at Anfield. "Wow! What a game. Two teams, full throttle." Liverpool had Manchester City on the ropes with "pressing from another planet," as Klopp called it.
City sauntered into the contest unbeaten in 284 days and were level at the interval. Yet, a nine-minute blitz of three goals at concussive speed floored the future champions. "People watched this game all over the world and this is why," Klopp gushed, "take your heart, throw it on the pitch and play like this, both teams."
To add to the enthralling spectacle, City almost mounted an unlikely comeback from 4-1 down, with Sergio Aguero skewing a stoppage-time effort narrowly wide.
Liverpool 3-0 Man City - April 2018
Loris Karius didn't have a single save to make as Klopp's side rode the lightning in another goal-laden surge against a Guardiola outfit.
Just 19 breathless minutes separated Mohamed Salah's opener and Sadio Mane's header to make it 3-0 with barely half an hour gone. The first half of this Champions League quarter-final first leg wasn't even over but the tie was as good as decided - even if Klopp ferociously protested to the contrary.
Liverpool would go on to win the reverse fixture at the Etihad but the brutal majesty of that first half at Anfield, combined with the clean sheet after the break, was perhaps the purest encapsulation of all that Klopp strives for in every game. As Klopp's long-term assistant Peter Krawietz says: "Dominance and control, that's what it's about."
Liverpool 3-1 Man City - November 2019
Klopp called upon every resource ahead of City's trip to Anfield. "Everyone in the stadium has to be in absolutely top shape," he demanded. "Even the guy who sells the hot dogs."
All those of a Liverpool persuasion, from the concessions to the keeper, played their role in a crushing 3-1 victory which sent Klopp nine points clear of the champions. A spiky Guardiola admitted that he wasn't sure if City could catch up to Liverpool. "I am not a magician; I don't know the future," he snapped.
They couldn't. Klopp's commanding thumping was one of a frankly outrageous 26 wins from 28 league games before Covid-19 put the title procession on pause.