The last week or so has seen a return of an old favourite, as Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte have been engaged in public mind games, which has been absolutely brilliant/abhorrent (delete based on your opinion). For some reason, I am forced to write you a column each week, (please have mercy, I haven’t seen my family in weeks) I thought it might be nice just to take a look at the recent jibes that each manager has fired at each other.
Mourinho: ‘Because I don’t behave as a clown on the touchline, it means I’ve lost my passion.’
The one that started it all. Strangely, this slam wasn’t aimed at anyone in particular, instead, in classic Mourinho style, Jose was just talking any old nonsense to try and defend himself. He had been accused of looking like he wasn’t bothered about the United job, with stories linking him to PSG refusing to go away. Personally, I think he was trying to go after Klopp, as Liverpool had hit a decent run of form that would show up United’s more recent underperformances.
This is just above average as far as digs go. It was a good start from Jose as it’s quite a natural turn of phrase and if no one had picked up on it he could have passed it off as such. Luckily for him and us, Antonio took the bait.
Conte: ‘Sometimes I think there is, I don’t know the name, but demenza senile… when you forget what you do in the past.’
The Italian was possibly coerced into responding to Mourinho’s comments, but he shot from the hip with this one. Conte pointed out that some of Mourinho’s celebrations hadn’t exactly been quiet and respectful. The Italian is of course, objectively correct. There are several instances when Jose has behaved like ‘a clown’. There was that time he sprinted down the touchline as Porto manager at Old Trafford, or when he ran across the Nou Camp like Alan Shearer, or when he ran 50m to the Chelsea fans at Anfield etc. In Antonio’s eyes, when Jose was performing these displays, he may as well have been wearing a red nose and oversized shoes.
Where this falls down is the dementia quip. To get slightly serious for a split second, dementia is an awful disease that affects millions of people every day and shouldn’t be joked about. Also, ‘man cannot remember therefore he is ill’ is a lazy put down. If Conte had simply pointed out the rampant hypocrisy in Mourinho’s statement, that would have been a solid attack. Instead, he adds one comment too many that lessens the overall blow.
Mourinho: ‘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.’
Boom! Mic drop.
This was the best of the lot. Yes, Conte was never actually suspended for match-fixing, rather being accused of failing to report match-fixing, of which he was cleared of in court. But the delivery of this sick burn is what made it.
Jose starts by defending Conte, saying the press goaded him into an ‘out of control reaction,’ lulling us into a false sense of security. He then spends almost two minutes effectively quoting Frank Sinatra, listing out his various regrets about his past behaviour.
Here’s what was running through my head as I was watching it:
‘Wow… this is quite reserved. I mean, he’s right, he has behaved poorly in the past. Yep, I remember him sliding on his knees and jumping into the crowd. Maybe he is finally controlling himself better and therefore he is still fiercely passionate? That was very big of him, to talk in terms like that, with that level of self-reflection and awareness. I really thought that he might ju- oh there it is.’
If only he had a hype man stood just next to him who could scream ‘WOOOAAAAAAH!.’
Conte: ‘In the past he was a little man in many circumstances, he’s a little man in the present and for sure he will be a little man in the future. I consider him a little man and I consider him a man with a very low profile.’
By this point, Conte sounds like he is bubbling with fury. We’re on the cusp of the Chelsea squad having to hold him back, Victor Moses shouting ‘it’s not worf it Ant!’ and Danny Drinkwater screaming ‘leave it aat, Tony!’
It’s simultaneously a poor and impressive linguistic attack. Dubbing someone a little man can be a really demeaning statement, effectively calling you worthless. However, in this case, it feels rushed. Conte seems to be attempting to rise above this spat but in doing so stooped to Mourinho’s level. By this point in the exchange, he is definitely losing and is floundering in an attempt to get back on top.
Conte: ‘He used serious words… I won’t forget this.’
Wow. That sure is ominous.
This is a brilliant way to end the spat, leaving the final comment so open-ended. My mind is racing, what exactly is he planning? A brawl in the car park? A murder? Causing a series of small inconveniences that pile up and mentally break Mourinho?
‘Missing your paperclips, Jose?’
It leaves the confrontation delicately balanced for the two sides meeting at the end of February. It could really heat up over on the touchline and in a direct, physical confrontation there’s only one winner.
No, it’s not actually, it’s Antonio Conte. He would wipe the floor with Mourinho. Even Wenger battered Mourinho, for goodness sake.