Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho have rarely seen eye to eye, the pair were frequently engaged in a number of verbal battles while they both managed in England – expect further fireworks now the duo find themselves in Serie A.
Conte has been quick to quash any speculation that the ill-feeling will carry over into their work in Italy, claiming “It’s great news for everybody, I wish him the best, except when he plays against Inter.”
When asked if there will be a hug next time they meet, Conte responded “For sure, there is great respect between us.”
Though the pair actually had their first battle in 2009 when Conte’s Atalanta were one of the only teams to take points off of Inter’s treble-winning side after a 1-1 stalemate in Bergamo, but relations only turned sour in 2016 when Mourinho took objection to Conte’s wild celebrations in the final minutes of Chelsea’s rampant win over Manchester United.
The image of Mourinho whispering his frustration into the ear of a puzzled-looking Conte is remembered by all who witnessed it, with it widely being reported that the ‘special one’ warned Conte “You don’t celebrate like that at 4-0, you can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us.”
Just five months later, the pair met again as Chelsea welcomed Manchester United in an FA Cup tie that saw United midfielder Ander Herrera red carded, “Everybody can analyse from different perspectives but we all watch the match until the red card and after the red card. So we can compare the decisions of the two yellow cards, in this case with others which were not given,” Mourinho said.
Conte responded by blasting Mourinho’s over-exuberant tactics, after Eden Hazard was hacked on a number of occasions.
The tension was cranked up a notch in 2018, when the mud-slinging and insults were flying at scatter-gun speed. Mourinho called Conte a ‘clown’.
“I don’t behave as a clown on the touchline, it means that I lost my passion, I prefer to behave the way I am doing it, much more mature, better for my team and myself, I don’t think you have to behave like a crazy guy on the touchline to have that passion,” the then-Manchester United boss claimed.
Conte took no prisoners with his response, implying Mourinho was suffering from ‘demenza senile’, which translates as senile dementia.
The Italian added: “I think he has to see himself in the past – maybe he was speaking about himself in the past. Maybe, sometimes, I think that someone forgets what’s said in the past, which is his behaviour.”
Conte’s insult lowered the bar, and gave Mourinho the best excuse to draw attention to his rival’s suspension for match-fixing in 2012.
The new Roma boss explained: “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.”
It was this comment that sparked Conte’s infamous ‘little man’ jibe, with the Italian responding: “I think when there are these types of comments, comments where you try to offend the person and don’t know the truth, then you are a little man.
“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.”
The pair last met in May 2018 during the FA Cup final, where Conte’s Chelsea got the better of Mourinho’s United once again via an Eden Hazard penalty.
Following the game, Conte said: “I think with Jose we have clarified the situation and that is the most important thing. There is not a problem between him and I.”
Only time will tell, but it goes without saying the spotlight will be just as much on the dugouts as it is on the pitch when Roma meet newly crowned Serie A champions Inter Milan next season.