Old rivals Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho will come face to face again next season.
Mourinho did not stay out of the limelight long after his dismissal of Tottenham and has been confirmed as the new Roma head coach.
He will join the club before the 2021-22 season on a three-year deal to compete in a league in which Conte and his former club Inter have just completed a historic run of Juventus domestic dominance.
A bitter war of words broke out between the high-profile bosses when they were at Manchester United and Chelsea in the Premier League, respectively.
– AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) May 4, 2021
Tensions had been simmering between the couple since Conte’s appointment as Mourinho’s long-term successor at Stamford Bridge in 2016.
The Portuguese closeness as a direct rival at United was never likely to encourage restraint.
Mourinho and Conte have met seven times before as leaders.
After their first meeting was a draw in 2010, when Inter took on Atalanta, Conte have won four victories from the six meetings that took place since 2016, when only two victories went to the new Roma boss.
Here we look back at what both men said during their rivalry with Chelsea and United, where we reviewed how the series quickly escalated.
Prelude – Defensive teams and Mourinho seasons
Initially, when Chelsea marched to the Premier League title and United gathered the EFL Cup and Europa League to compensate for a sixth-place finish in top flight, the jib between the two constituted a sparring session as opposed to an all-out verbal scrap.
The seeds were sown when Mourinho complained to Conte about his animated celebration on the touchline – more on them later – when Chelsea smashed United 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in October 2016.
Mourinho’s preferred method of condemning with low praise was at the forefront in February 2017, when he branded the Premier League’s leading side as “a very good defensive team”, while Conte warned Chelsea to avoid “Mourinho season” – a practical shorthand for the dangers of a terrible title defense, like the one endured at Stamford Bridge in 2015-16.
In addition, Mourinho suggested that Conte was one of his rivals, as “they cry, they cry, they cry when a player is injured”. In the Italian’s opinion, the United boss was overly concerned about the affairs of his former club. The stage was set.
51% – Only with Leiria (45%) has José Mourinho put a lower winning ratio in all competitions in his management career than he has with Tottenham Hotspur (51% – won 44/86 games). Fired. pic.twitter.com/lunYGIMwh8
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 19, 2021
“I’m not behaving like a clown on the touchline”
While Mourinho made assurances about his United future in January 2018, after becoming more and more amused around matches, he identified an aspect of his behavior that he believes sets him apart from his peers.
“Because I’m not behaving like a clown on the touchline, does that mean I lost my passion?” he said. “I prefer to behave the way I do, much more mature, better for my team and myself.
“You don’t have to behave like a crazy guy on the touchline to have that passion.”
Mourinho could no doubt have referred to Conte, Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp. All three men were asked about his comments at the time; only one train bait.
Speaking a day later, Conte was quick to accuse Mourinho of hypocrisy in a rather conspicuous way.
“I think he has to see himself earlier, maybe he talked about himself earlier, yes?” he said.
“Maybe I think sometimes someone forgets his behavior, and sometimes I think there is, I do not know the name ‘dementia senile’ when you are a little … when you forget what you do in the past.”
Despite the literal translation being “senile dementia”, Chelsea were forced to clarify that Conte had been looking for the Italian word for “memory loss”.
Either way, this was now an argument in the gutter. Mourinho seemed content with this condition and was determined to hit Conte where it hurt the most.
“I will never be suspended for match-fixing”
In response to United’s 2-0 FA Cup win over Derby later that day, Mourinho Conte put up with faux-sympathy and empathy – this is all media error, you see – before concluding with an undisguised excavation
“Look, I do not blame him. Honestly, I do not blame him, ”he began.
“I think the press should apologize to me and him because the question that comes to him is completely wrong and therefore he had it out of control reaction. But I do not blame him at all. ”
There seemed to be contradictions to past indiscretions. It was all a detailed setup.
“The only thing I want to say to end the story is that yes, I made mistakes earlier in the touchline,” Mourinho added.
“Yes, I want to earn less, but I think I still want to earn a few. What never happened to me and will never happen is to be suspended for match-fixing. It never happened to me and will never happen. ”
Conte was implicated in a scandal from 2011 while in charge of Siena, and later served a four-month ban, but always denied any offense and was acquitted by an Italian judge in May 2016.
2.18 – Only Antonio Conte (2.26) has collected more points on average than José #Mourinho (2.18) among managers in #SerieA in the three points for a winning era (since 1994/95) – min. 40 matches. Particular. pic.twitter.com/AjXOLVP60j
– OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) May 4, 2021
“A little man with a very low profile”
Conte had previously talked about his personal ordeal throughout the fight-fixing affair. After a 0-0 FA draw for Chelsea in Norwich City, he was understandably in an almost hidden rage.
“I consider him a little man, I consider him a man with a very low profile,” Conte said of Mourinho before sending a newly learned word.
“You have to know the story very well before you hurt another person. In the last period, he suffers a bit from memory loss. ”
Conte continued with lambast Mourinho for his criticism of Claudio Ranieri before last season for showing solidarity with the sacked Leicester City boss.
“I remember, for example, a stupid example with Ranieri when he insulted Ranieri [the standard of] his English, ”said Conte.
“When Ranieri was fired, he took a shirt to Ranieri. You’re a fake.
“If you want to fight with a person, you try to kill the person, and then after two years you try to help that person, because maybe it’s good for you, your profile.”
Contempt and no apology
In the days after this year’s FA Cup weekend in the third round, Conte emphasized that he does not “regret” the episode. “He said serious words and used serious words. I will not forget this, ”he said.
Mourinho then told reporters no doubt he had “contempt” for Conte, as a dubious means of drawing a line under the subject.
All eyes were on the excavation as the enemies met at Old Trafford – a vantage point that Conte already had in mind as he glowed at Carrow Road.
“Me and him, face to face,” he said of the Premier League match at the Theater of Dreams. “I’m ready. I do not know if he is ready.”
United came from behind to win 2-1, with Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard getting the goals.
The two leaders were thoroughly investigated – Mourinho was the first to come out of the tunnel and the pair went hand in hand, even after waiting for Conte to make his appearance.
Mourinho and Conte shook hands again after the match and the mood seemed reconciling.
In the months following the match and shortly before the FA Cup final between United and Chelsea in 2018, Mourinho revealed that a ceasefire had broken out between the pair.
“He [Conte] stretched out, I stretched, we are bored [arguing]”Mourinho told Record.
“After the game here in Manchester, I invited him to come to my office. We talked, nothing is wrong. ”
Conte would continue to have the last laugh in their last meeting in England and beat Mourinho and United 1-0 to lift the FA Cup in his last match in charge of Chelsea before a bitter exit from Stamford Bridge.
Will the ceasefire last? We will find out next season and potentially for many years to come in Italy.