How Conte, Mourinho war of words escalated

Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte find themselves in a bitter tit-for-tat feud once again, with neither manager showing any willingness to back down.

The relationship between the managers of Manchester United and Chelsea has never been an easy one, but the insults are growing increasingly hostile. take a closer look at their latest war of words and decipher what each manager actually meant by what they said.

The Background
The hostility between Mourinho and Conte flared up when Chelsea thrashed United 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in October 2016.

Mourinho’s frustration at the result boiled over at the final whistle when he suggested to Conte that his exuberant celebrations had ‘humiliated’ him.

Italian television reported that Mourinho told Conte: ‘You don’t celebrate like that at 4-0, you can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us.’

As Chelsea raced towards the Premier League title, Mourinho backed them to win it as early as February but couldn’t resist a barb about the Blues being too ‘defensive’ in doing so.

“Chelsea are a very good defensive team,’ he said. ‘I think in this situation a very defensive team wins the title with counter-attack goals and set-piece goals.’

The two teams were drawn together in the FA Cup a month later, with Chelsea winning 1-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to N’Golo Kante’s goal, after Ander Herrera was sent off for two yellow cards picked up for tackles on Eden Hazard.

Conte was livid, accusing Mourinho of a deliberate tactic to kick the Belgian: ‘A tactic to play and go to kick an opponent? It’s not football for me.’

Former Chelsea manager Mourinho was called ‘Judas’ by a section of the crowd but he defended his record. ‘When they have somebody that wins four Premier Leagues for them, I become No 2. Until this moment Judas is No 1.’

As Chelsea closed in on the title, Conte aimed a dig at Mourinho for United’s spending after they splashed out over £150m only to finish sixth in the league. His comments were also aimed at Man City boss Pep Guardiola.

The Italian said: ‘This season it’s very important to understand that it’s not always about who spends more money who wins.
“This season isn’t the only season both Manchester clubs have spent a lot of money.’

Over the summer, Chelsea’s focus turned to their title defence, with Conte all-too-aware that the last time they were reigning champions, under Mourinho, the following season was a disaster.

“We know the difficulty of the next season and for sure we want to avoid the Mourinho season with Chelsea. Two years ago the team ended the league in 10th place and we want to try to avoid this,’ said Conte.

When these comments were put to Mourinho, he responded with a very curious comment about Conte’s hair, which was receding towards the end of his playing days but is now flourishing thanks to various transplants.

“I could answer in many different ways,’ said Mourinho. “But I’m not going to lose my hair to speak about Antonio Conte.’

This season, there was a skirmish back in October when Mourinho accused Conte of ‘crying’ when his team had too many injuries, with the Chelsea boss telling Mourinho to mind his own business.

January 4
A New Year, but clearly no Mourinho resolution to be nicer to his peers.

The United manager is previewing their FA Cup third round tie with Derby County when he reignites the feud. Asked whether he still had the passion for the job having cut an increasingly frustrated figure in the dug-out, Mourinho hit back.

What he said: “Because I don’t behave as a clown on the touchline it means I lost my passion? “I prefer to do it the way I do it. Much more mature, better for my team and myself.

“You don’t have to behave like a crazy guy on the touchline. “The way a person is dedicated to his work, not what you do in front of the cameras.’

What he meant: Mourinho may or may not have had Conte in mind when he made the ‘clown’ comments, but no rival manager was mentioned by name.

The Italian is known for his animated touchline manner and for running up and down the touchline to celebrate goals. He often almost loses his voice from shouting too much during matches.

Yet Mourinho could also have been referrring to the Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who is also energetic in urging his players on from the technical area.

Or he could have been talking about Man City boss Guardiola, who can also be highly animated and overstep the mark, as shown especially by his ‘Pep talk’ to Southampton’s Nathan Redmond recently.

January 5
The following day at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground and Conte is previewing their FA Cup trip to Norwich City on Saturday evening. He is asked about Mourinho’s ‘clown’ remarks and launches into an angry tirade against his rival.

What he said: “I think he has to see himself in the past, maybe he was speaking about himself in the past, yeah?

“Maybe sometimes, someone forgets what they said or his behaviour and sometimes I think there is, I don’t know the name, demenza senile, when you are a bit [taps the side of his head].’

What he meant: Conte was asked to clarify what he meant by ‘demenza senile’ and he turned to his fellow Italian coach and former goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini for help with the translation.

Cudicini said: ‘It is like amnesia, when you can’t remember things.’

Then Conte added: “When you forgot what you say or do in the past, your behaviours. You must be worried when this happens because it means you are becoming old and you need a check.’

Conte clearly wanted to remind Mourinho of the many examples of his own touchline misdemeanours in the past. Who can forget the way he celebrated Porto’s late goal at Old Trafford in 2004, or his fisticuffs with Arsene Wenger?

Whether senile dementia or amnesia, it is still a jibe that Mourinho is getting on in years – yet 54-year-old Mourinho is only six years the senior of Conte.

Mourinho didn’t specifically refer to Conte with his ‘clown’ comment and yet the Italian was the only one to take the bait, willingly pouring further fuel on the fire.

January 5
Later that day, Mourinho is giving a press conference after United defeat Derby 2-0 to advance in the FA Cup.

He is asked about Conte’s latest remarks about the ‘amnesia’ and actually begins by giving a diplomatic answer that appears to draw a line under the spat.

What he said: “The only thing I want to say to end the story is that, yes, I made mistakes in the past on the touchline. Yes, I will make less but I think I will still make a few.’

But then Mourinho continued talking and decided to continue pouring gasoline on the flames. “What never happened to me – and will never happen – is to be suspended for match-fixing. That never happened to me and will never happen.’

A journalist in the room then pointed out that Conte had been charged by the football authorities in the past for failing to report match-fixing. “Did he? Not me,’ replied the United boss.

What he meant If only Mourinho had ended the sentence after the comments about being animated on the touchline. Instead, he escalated the argument to a whole new level with a personal comment about an inglorious moment in Conte’s past.

He served a four-month suspension – reduced from an initial 10 months – while at Juventus in 2012-13 for failing to report match-fixing at his previous club Siena.

Conte was finally acquitted of any wrongdoing by the Italian courts in 2016. This was a very calculated comment by Mourinho designed to touch a nerve.

January 6
The following day, after Chelsea were held to a goalless draw by Norwich in the FA Cup, Conte had the chance to reply to Mourinho’s latest remarks and was in no mood to calm the situation.

What he said: “The truth is that I was banned for four months for failure to report. Then I asked for a real trial by court and they declared my innocence.

“I think before you make this type of comment, to hurt another person, you must pay great attention. You show you are a little man. A little man.

“You [Mourinho] don’t know very well what is the situation. But I know him very well in the past.

“In the past he was a little man in many circumstances, he is a little man in the present and for sure he will be a little man in the future.

“Mourinho is this. You know him very well. The level is very low. But that is not my problem. I consider him a little man, I consider him a man with a very low profile.’

Conte also called Mourinho a ‘fake’ after his apparent show of support for Claudio Ranieri when he was sacked by Leicester City.

Referring to the next meeting between the clubs at Old Trafford on February 25, Conte told BBC Radio 5 Live: ‘When is the game against United?

“We can meet in a room. To try and explain about these comments. I don’t know if he is ready to meet me in a room, just me and him.

“I’m not surprised [at the comments]. He has to know before he speaks because he is suffering from amnesia.’
What he meant “It would have taken someone with a monk-like personality not to respond to Mourinho’s match-fixing jibe and Conte was certainly well within his rights.

In calling Mourinho a ‘little man’ with a ‘low profile’ he clearly wanted to inflict a dent in his large ego.

The prospect of the two managers meeting in a room to thrash out their differences before the game next month is a tantalising one.

By saying that, Conte has pretty much ensured their feud will rumble on until that point and you wouldn’t bet against more barbs being traded in the meantime.

January 9
Conte was once again asked about the Mourinho spat in his press conference ahead of yesterday night’s Carabao Cup semi-final with Arsenal and whether he had any regrets.

What he said: “Have a look at this face, is it of a person that regrets? I don’t think so.

“I think we both said things, and we’ll see what happens in the future. He said serious words and I won’t forget this.

“This is not a problem from the club, it’s a problem between me and him.’
What he meant: Conte was clearly in no mood to further escalate the feud, but didn’t exactly draw a line under the affair either.

He also ruled out the League Managers’ Association getting involved to mediate between the two and try to defuse the row.

As that match in late February draws nearer, this is one argument that is set to run and run.