Jose Mourinho vs. Antonio Conte: Football's nastiest feud?

For some it is an unseemly spat, for others it is one of the highlights of the football season.What is not in ...

Posted: Jan. 10, 2018 1:29 PM
Updated: Jan. 10, 2018 1:29 PM

For some it is an unseemly spat, for others it is one of the highlights of the football season.

What is not in doubt is that the animosity between Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea counterpart Antonio Conte is bitter and real and the force of the feud is intensifying with every passing media conference. A storm has been unleashed and who knows when it will blow over.

Conte has labeled his Portuguese rival a "little man" and a "fake," while Mourinho aimed low by bringing up the match-fixing case in which the Italian was exonerated after an investigation.

The Chelsea manager, 48, has said he "will not forget" about the latest war of words and neither will we. It has been extraordinary.

The genesis of this set-to harks back to October 2016, when Conte appeared to antagonize Mourinho, the self-styled "Special One," in United's 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge.

But feelings were really stirred up on January 4, when Mourinho said he did not "behave as a clown on the touchline."

It was not clear whether the 54-year-old's response to being asked about why he did not celebrate his team's goals was in reference to himself, Conte or another Premier League manager.

As the week unfolded, such details seemed to matter little as it was interpreted as an attack on Conte.

READ: 'The Special One' - A history of Jose Mourinho's feuds

READ: Man Utd appoint Mourinho as new coach

The next day Conte reminded Mourinho that he was once an animated young manager -- the former Real Madrid boss famously ran along the touchline at Old Trafford in 2004 to celebrate his Porto team's winner against United in the Champions League.

Conte, a distinguished former Juventus and Italy midfielder, said that Mourinho "forgets what he said in the past or his behaviors," adding that the United boss acted as if he had "demenza senile."

Chelsea later said their manager meant amnesia, but the horse had already bolted because then came Mourinho's incredible response. A gust became a storm.

Mourinho ups the ante

On January 6, Mourinho made reference to the Chelsea manager's four-month ban for failing to report alleged match-fixing while head coach of Siena during the 2010-11 season. The Italian was exonerated in May 2016.

"I was asked about my passion and you know I was speaking about myself and then the question to the Chelsea manager was that I said he behaved like a clown," said Mourinho, when asked about Conte's "demenza senile" comments.

READ: The match that changed football

READ: Jose Mourinho v Jurgen Klopp - on the same mission

"Probably the journalist wanted to say that but didn't have the courage so he said Mourinho said you behaved like a clown.

"What I was trying to say is that I behave bad a few times and this moment I control myself better.

"It doesn't mean my passion is not the same. So wrong question and obviously a strong answer and I don't blame.

"The only way I want to end the story is: yes, I made mistakes in the past on the touchline and yes, I will make less but I'll still make a few.

"What has never happened to me and will never happen is to be suspended for match-fixing. That never happened to me and it will never happen."

READ: Historic night for English football as VAR is used

'You are a fake, you are a fake'

Mourinho, former manager of Inter Milan and Chelsea, had struck a nerve.

Following his team's goalless draw with Norwich City in the FA Cup third round on January 7, Conte was reported to have left onlookers agog at a media conference as he responded to Mourinho's barb which, though not directly naming him, seemed to be aimed at his counterpart.

"It's true I was banned for four months by the sporting justice for failure to report," said Conte. "Then I asked for a retrial by court and then they declared it nonsense.

"Before you make these kind of comments you must pay great attention, because you show 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."

Conte also made reference to the Portuguese wearing a shirt with the initials "CR" at a media conference in support of former Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri when he had just been sacked.

"I remember with Ranieri when he [Mourinho] offended him for his English," added Conte. "And then when Ranieri was sacked he put on a shirt for Ranieri. You are fake, you are fake."

In a media conference on January 9, before his team's League Cup match against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on January 10, Conte said he would never forget what three-time English Premier League winner Mourinho, had said.

"He used serious words," Conte said. "I won't forget this.

Asked if the League Managers' Association (LMA) should now step in to try to repair the damage between the pair, Conte said: "This is not a problem from the club, it is a problem between me and him. I stop."

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Conte is not the first to suffer Mourinho's ire.

The United boss infamously labeled Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger "a voyeur" when he was Chelsea manager and has exchanged a series of barbs with former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Inter Milan boss Rafael Benitez -- and the Spaniard's wife.

"For her also to think about me and to speak about me, I think she needs to occupy her time, and if she takes care of her husband's diet she will have less time to speak about me," he once said.

The Portuguese has also had run-ins with Barcelona, Manchester City and the Chelsea first team during the 2015-16 season, saying he felt "betrayed" by his players.

Chelsea and United are scheduled to meet at Old Trafford in the Premier League on February 25. Managers traditionally shake hands at the end of games. Watch this space.

Conte says he 'will never forget' feud with Mourinho

Spat appeared to begin in October 2016

Exchanges have been particularly heated this month

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