José Mourinho (pictured)
has been verbally sparring with Antonio Conte for the last 18
months.
Getty
Images

  • Manchester United manager José Mourinho and Chelsea
    boss Antonio Conte
    have accused each other of
    suffering from dementia and match-fixing.
  • The animosity has gotten so bad that Conte has
    effectively challenged Mourinho to a fight, asking if the
    Portuguese manager wants to meet him alone in a room.
  • Instead, the two will contest a grudge match when
    United welcomes Chelsea to Old Trafford for a Premier League
    game next month.

 

Two of the most respected managers in world football have
exchanged insults like bad-mouthed boxers the day before a
championship bout.

Fighting out of the red corner we have Manchester United manager
José Mourinho. Out of the blue corner we have Chelsea boss
Antonio Conte.

The two coaches have mocked each other’s backgrounds,
appearances, and abilities over a headline-hogging 18 month
period. Conte once accused Mourinho of being unable to identify
young, elite talent. Mourinho, meanwhile, has implied that Conte
is a clown.

Things reached fever pitch when Mourinho recalled previous
match-fixing accusations levelled at Conte while the Italian was
at former club Siena. Conte then challenged Mourinho to a
fist-fight.

This is a level of hatred that the Premier League has not
witnessed since Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger traded blows
from 1996 to 2005.

Those were the days when Ferguson bruised David Beckham because
he kicked a boot at the midfielder’s head in a fit of locker room
rage, all because United had lost 2-0 to Arsenal in 2003.

They also saw Ferguson get hot soup poured over him after the
infamous Battle of Old Trafford, and ultimately saw the
Metropolitan Police intervene to urge the warring managers to
bury the hatchet over fears the tension would transfer to the
crowds in 2005.

When Ferguson and Wenger started doing business together,
exchanging players for money, the hostility ended and they began
respecting and admiring each other’s achievements and longevity
in the game.

Sure, other spats have emerged, but these days there is no feud
as white hot as Mourinho and Conte’s.

How did it all begin?

Jose Mourinho and Antonio ConteMourinho had words with Conte after a one-sided Chelsea
win in 2016.
Getty
Images

Mourinho and Conte’s rivalry arguably began on July 3, 2016. That
is the date Conte took charge of the Blues, just six months after
Mourinho was sacked having left Chelsea lingering just outside
the relegation zone after a disastrous run of Premier League
results.

It was not long before Mourinho and Conte got to meet
face-to-face. Chelsea welcomed United to Stamford Bridge in
October — and it is a game that the Portuguese will hope to
forget. Why? Because Chelsea obliterated United by a 4-0 score
and Conte celebrated every single goal with highlight-reel
enthusiasm.

“You don’t celebrate like that at 4-0,” Mourinho seethed on Italian TV,
according to Reuters
. “You can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s
humiliating for us.”

From there, Conte rubbed salt into Mourinho’s wounds by implying
his predecessor mismanaged one of his former players at Chelsea.
In November, Conte told Gazetta dello Sport
that he immediately recognised the potential of Victor Moses and
could not understand why Mourinho denied him chances in the first
team. “I find it incredible that someone like him has been
overlooked,” he said.

Rivalry turned into verbal abuse

Antonio ConteConte was criticised by
Mourinho for over-exuberant celebrations.
Getty Images

Last summer, Conte told his players that he would not allow
Chelsea to finish 10th under his watch. “We want to avoid the
Mourinho season,” Conte is quoted by the BBC to have said.
Another humiliation for the United boss.

Mourinho shrugged off the insult at a separate news conference.
“I’m not going to lose my hair to speak about Antonio Conte,” he
said — a barb at Conte’s famous hair
transplant
.

With time, the verbal abuse just got more offensive. For
instance, earlier this month Mourinho implied that Conte is a
“clown” and “a crazy guy” on the touchline.

“I don’t behave as a clown,” he said at a conference, as reported by Goal.com. “I
prefer to behave more mature. I don’t think you have to behave
like a crazy guy on the touchline.”

Conte, clearly remembering the times Mourinho spent running up
and down touchlines, responded by accusing his rival of having
dementia. 

“Maybe he was speaking about himself in the past,” he said in The Times.
“Sometimes I think there is demenza senile [senile dementia] when
you forget what you do in the past.”

Conte later retracted that statement and said he meant amnesia.
However, the damage was done and even Italy-born former England
manager Fabio Capello told Sky Sports News
that Conte “made a mistake.”

Then, with no sense of irony, Capello said both managers were
“totally out of their minds.”

Yet those comments seem kind when compared to what came next.

The point of no return

Jose MourinhoGetty Images

The simmering rivalry turned piping hot when Mourinho brought up
the match-fixing scandal that plagued Conte’s former club Siena
in the 2010-2011 season.

Conte had been accused of failing to report match-fixing by
Filippo Carobbio, a former Siena player who was charged with
extensive involvement in the crisis. Though Conte, through his
lawyer, denied all allegations he was suspended for 10 months.
This was later reduced to four months. He was eventually
acquitted of all charges, cleared of any wrongdoing.

“What never happened to me – and will never happen – is to be
suspended for match-fixing,” Mourinho said at a conference
according to the BBC.

It did not take long for Conte to fire back at Mourinho. He
called him a “little man” with a “very low profile” who “doesn’t
know the truth.” He also called him “a fake.”

But the bad blood does not end there.

Eladio Parames, who MARCA says is a close
friend of Mourinho’s, wrote an open letter to Conte in his column
for Portuguese newspaper Record.

Parames reminded Conte of his midfield playing days at Juventus
in the 1995-1996 season, a time when there were accusations that
the players were doping, had been doping, or were doped with the
performance-enhancing drug EPO (Erythropoietin).

The matter went to trial in 2004 and Riccardo Agricola, the club
doctor, was given a suspended prison sentence for
doping the players. A year later, however, he was acquitted on
appeal.

“Mr Conte: Do you know what EPO is?” Parames said in the letter.
“The analysis was overwhelming.”

Parames said Conte may deny accusations of “fixing matches” but
he “didn’t get rid of the reputation of being involved in shady
business dealings.”

February 25 could become a showdown

The whole situation has rankled Conte, livid at Mourinho for
bringing up a case he was cleared of.

“When is the game against United?” Conte told BBC Radio 5 Live before issuing a
call to arms. “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.”

Conte won’t have long to wait.

Chelsea travels to Old Trafford for a Premier League tussle
against United on Febuary 25 and one thing is for sure — this
game, with the backstory the managers are bringing, could become
the biggest grudge match the division has seen for over a decade.

Greater, perhaps, than those old days.

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