We’ve had the battle of the buffet in the past but the battle of the handbags between Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho has been one of the headline features of the first week of 2018. Now a former Chelsea player has launched a bizarre and astonishing attack on Mourinho, supporting Conte.
Chris Sutton signed for the Stamford Bridge club and famously only scored one goal for them (ironically against United, though the Red Devils won the league that season) so has, in theory, no strong links to them. The row between Conte and Mourinho started when one reporter told Conte that Mourinho’s comments about ‘behaving like a clown on the touchline’ (comments he later clarified meant himself) were about the Italian or Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
Conte then strangely decided to get personal, describing Mourinho as having ‘senile dementia’. Mourinho’s retort was to put the finger squarely back at the press but he couldn’t resist a retaliation, saying ‘at least he had never been banned’ for match-fixing, referring to a four-month-suspension Conte endured whilst in Italy (though he was later cleared of any wrong-doing). Conte reacted angrily to these comments, describing Mourinho as ‘fake’ and ‘a little man’ and then making passive aggressive remarks about meeting him face to face when the clubs play each other next.
It has presented ample opportunity for pundits and former players alike to have their say and Sutton has waded in, putting the blame on Mourinho for ‘starting’ the spat, and saying Conte was within his rights to ‘respond’ despite him throwing the first insult unprovoked. “I cannot remember two managers having a row of such a personal nature,” he wrote in his Daily Mail column.”Both Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho seem intent on having the last word but this has gone too far.
“Normally it would take a phone call between them to sort this out but these two may be too stubborn for that. Neither manager has come out of this well. Conte’s comments about Mourinho having ‘senile dementia’ were in poor taste but Mourinho reached a new low with his dig about match-fixing.That was completely below the belt and Conte was well within his rights to respond.
“Whether it was a deflection tactic or evidence that he has taken his eye off the ball, Mourinho would be better served concentrating on the job at hand. Mourinho has also attacked Paul Scholes. It is a far cry from when he arrived in England and used wit and humour. Are we now seeing the real Jose?”
Have we now reached a point where referring to a fact, however tasteless, is worse than actually insulting someone by saying they have dementia? Mourinho should have bit his tongue but Conte should have known better than to use a serious illness to insult another manager, and, especially unprovoked as it was suggested the Italian is struggling with pressure at Chelsea.
It seems strange for Sutton to accuse Mourinho of using it as a diversion tactic considering he was talking directly about himself. Conte, however, might well need that diversion tactic, following his own team’s meek surrender of their Premier League title and their poor draw at Norwich in the FA Cup.