Mourinho and Conte's rivalry will ignite Serie A next season

Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte’s rivalry will ignite Serie A next season after the Special One’s move to Roma… ‘Clown’, ‘senile’ and ‘little man’ were some of the insults they traded in England and now they are ready for more touchline battles in Italy

  • Jose Mourinho’s Roma appointment will see him renew his battle with an old foe
  • The Special One and Antonio Conte shared an ongoing bitter feud in England
  • They fell out over touchline celebrations, called each other ‘a clown’ and ‘senile’
  • Mourinho also brought up the fiery Italian’s match-fixing past and his hair style
  • It promises to be a fascinating battle when the pair meet in Serie A next season 

Once the shock of Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Roma so soon after his Tottenham sacking had subsided, thoughts immediately turned to how his Italian return could play out.

Roma want the Scudetto within three seasons and if anyone has the experience to do it, it is ‘The Special One’. His last spell in Serie A saw Mourinho win the Treble with Inter Milan during his two-year period at the San Siro from 2008 until 2010.  

Modern Mourinho is far from the manager who delivered that trophy-laden season for Inter but, when he takes on his former club next season, he will come up against a rival who is very familiar. 

Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte will renew their bitter touchline feud in Italy next season

Antonio Conte would have been basking in the glory of winning Inter’s first Scudetto for 11 years on Sunday night, breaking the stranglehold his former club Juventus had on the title.

In fact Conte, at 68 per cent, now has the highest win-rate of any Inter coach who has take charge of at least 25 Serie A matches. Mourinho is in second with 64 per cent.

Conte doesn’t seem like a man who drags out a celebration. Mourinho’s return to Italy just 48 hours after his title win would have certainly left a sour taste in the mouth.

The two share a rivalry going back almost 12 years when Mourinho’s Inter side took on Conte’s Atalanta in December 2009 – the season the Nerazzurri would go on to win the Treble.

It was Conte’s first high-profile coaching job and that day his side managed to stop Inter in their tracks thanks to Simone Tiribocchi’s 81st-minute equaliser that won Atalanta a deserved point.

The pair didn’t cross paths again until Conte moved to the Premier League in 2016 after managing former club Juventus to three straight Serie A titles and taking charge of Italy at Euro 2016.

Conte is currently basking in the glory of winning Inter Milan’s first Scudetto for 11 years

Mourinho has legendary status at Inter after guiding them to a famous Treble back in 2009-10

Conte was hired by Chelsea to replace interim manager Guus Hiddink, who himself had been put in charge when Mourinho was sacked by the Blues in his second spell at Stamford Bridge. 

Like he has this week, Mourinho quickly landed on his feet and just six months later was hired by Manchester United as Louis van Gaal’s successor. 

The pair’s rivalry really came to the surface just a few months into the 2016-17 season when Mourinho was livid at Conte’s wild touchline celebrations during Chelsea’s emphatic 4-0 win over United at Stamford Bridge in October.

At full time he said to Conte: ‘You don’t celebrate like that at 4-0, you can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us.’ 

In March 2017, during another Stamford Bridge encounter, the pair shared another spiky exchange after they had to be separated when Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso was fouled. 

Ander Herrera was sent off for two yellow cards picked up in tackles made on Eden Hazard, and Blues boss Conte was livid with what he perceived to be a deliberate ploy against the Belgian: ‘A tactic to play and go to kick an opponent? It’s not football for me,’ he said.

In July 2017, after being crowned champions, Chelsea entered the new campaign knowing the last time they tried to defend their title, under Mourinho, it ended in disastrous fashion.

The pair fell out dramatically during Conte’s time at Chelsea and Mourinho’s with Man United

It was not lost on Conte, who said: ‘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.’

Mourinho responded after a United friendly win in pre-season with a curious turn of phrase. ‘I could answer in many different ways,’ he said. ‘But I’m not going to lose my hair to speak about Antonio Conte.’

It was a reference to Conte’s hair. The Italian had a visibly receding hairline towards the end of his playing career but now boasts flowing locks.

A few months later, in January 2018, Mourinho was asked about his muted displays on the sideline before an FA Cup third-round tie against Derby County.

He replied: ‘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.’

Mourinho was first furious with Conte’s celebrations in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over United in 2016

His response was widely considered to be referring not just to Conte, but also to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

A day after Mourinho made those ‘crazy guy’ comments, Conte gave an astonishing response when the remarks were put to him.

‘Maybe sometimes I think that someone forget what they said in the past or which is his behaviours and sometimes I think there is, I don’t know the name, demenza senile, when you are a bit, when you forget what you do in the past,’ the Italian said. 

‘It is like amnesia when you can’t remember things. When you forgot what you say in the past, your behaviours and when you totally forgot, you must be worried when this happens because it means you are becoming old and you need a check.

‘I must be honest, I don’t read (what other managers say). The only opportunity to know about these situations is during the press conference.

‘I am not prepared like other persons to make a cinema because there are other persons who prepare to have a cinema in the press conference, before the game and during the game. I am not this type of person.’

Mourinho and Conte used their press conferences to deliver blows against each other

Again, it didn’t take long for a response. It was Mourinho who fired back this time after United saw off Derby 2-0, bringing up Conte’s involvement in match-fixing.

Conte 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 but was later acquitted of any wrongdoing by the Italian courts in 2016. 

However Mourinho took no prisoners, saying: ‘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.

‘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.’

Conte was furious at this point and his mood was not helped by watching his side play out a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup at Norwich.

‘The truth is that I was banned for four months for failure to report,’ Conte clarified afterwards. ‘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.

Conte and Mourinho last met in the 2018 FA Cup final where Chelsea beat Man United 1-0

‘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.’

It was at this point that Conte basically called out Mourinho for a scrap in the changing rooms, telling BBC Radio 5live: ‘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.’

The Italian was still seething three days later, adding: ‘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.’

Three days after that, Mourinho appeared to want to bury the hatchet after admitting to deliberately trying to antagonise Conte.

‘I think when a person insults another, you can expect a response or you can expect contempt, silence,’ Mourinho said.

‘The first time he insulted me, I had a response that I know that touched the point where he really feels hurt.’

Conte said after Mourinho had joined Roma that there is ‘great respect’ between the pair 

He added: ‘Then he insulted me for a second time, but now I change. For me, contempt means end of the story.’ 

When United beat Chelsea 2-1 in February 2018 the pair exchanged tense pre and post-match handshakes but they would meet again in the FA Cup final a few months later.

Conte got the better of Mourinho that day and it is the last time the pair have gone head to head. Their rivalry will be reignited in Italy next season, though.

Whether he was being magnanimous or not, Conte refused to renew their war of words this week when Mourinho’s Roma appointment had been announced.

‘It’s great news for everybody, I wish him the best, except when he plays against Inter,’ Conte said during an interview with Italian TV show Le Iene when he found out about Mourinho’s new move.

And when asked if they will hug when they meet again on the touchline, Conte replied: ‘For sure, there is great respect between us.’

Only time will tell how long their truce can last. If one things is for certain, both Conte and Mourinho will do and say whatever it takes to get one over on the other.

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