Jose Mourinho, the Internazionale manager, ignited another major row with Carlo Ancelotti, ahead of tonight's Champions League last-16 first leg at San Siro, when he accused the Chelsea coach of being part of a "clan" of Italians that regularly gangs up on him.
Mourinho regularly fell out with his opposite number when Ancelotti was Milan manager last season, and was back to his combative best yesterday as he spoke of his love for the English game. It was Ancelotti, however, who bore the brunt of Mourinho's anger.
The Inter manager was clearly upset that Ancelotti had spoken to an Italian newspaper and said that everyone in Italy would want Chelsea to win because they all dislike Mourinho so much. The Portuguese coach responded: "If Ancelotti says that, it's because he knows, or because somebody told him. Or because he belongs to the clan. I just do my job."
Mourinho has previously spoken of how he has faced unfair treatment from a trio of Italian managers – Ancelotti, when he was at Milan, the former Roma manager Luciano Spalletti and Claudio Ranieri, who was at Juventus and is now in charge of Roma.
Mourinho faces his former club Chelsea tonight at San Siro for the first time since he was sacked as their manager in September 2007, despite leading the club to two Premier League titles. He was full of praise for John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba who were prominent during his reign and remain key members of the Chelsea team.
Speaking about Drogba, who has 25 goals this season, Mourinho said: "I know that Didier will break his legs for his team, and his team is Chelsea. On the other bench is a friend, someone who also admires him, someone with a different objective to his own objective. I know there's no doubt he'll give everything. That's something that also makes him very proud, as it's the education I gave to the players."
The Inter manager also saluted the longevity of both Lampard and Terry: "They look as if they are never tired of playing well, which is the reality. The years are going and they are like port wine. The older the better."
Mourinho also spoke with great affection of his time in England, and in particular of when he was offered the England manager's job in December 2007, before Fabio Capello was appointed. "For a foreign coach to have the possibility to lead a country like England, I was the proudest man in the world. I thought, I thought, and I thought. I was fighting myself. On one side I wanted it, on one side I knew it was not the job for me," he said.
Mourinho remains close to several Chelsea players, including Ashley Cole, whom he rang last week. Cole, currently sidelined with a fractured ankle, faces possible disciplinary action by Chelsea over his alleged extra-marital affairs and is considering leaving the club, but Mourinho advised him to stay put.
"I called him a couple of days ago because I care about him. I wished him a very, very quick recovery. Because I like him very, very much my advice to him is don't leave England, stay in England," Mourinho said.
Cole's injury, coupled with a calf injury to Yuri Zhirkov, leaves Ancelotti with a hole to fill at left back, and Juliano Belletti is expected to be drafted in. Ancelotti said: "He has not even trained with us. Maybe we have a problem at left-back but if we play like a team there is no problem."
Mourinho has repeatedly provoked Ancelotti recently by claiming the current Chelsea team is still very much his own, even down to the way they warm up. He admitted yesterday that his close knowledge of tonight's opponents may not be a huge advantage.
"I know Chelsea well, but it doesn't mean it's easier," he said. "Sometimes it's more difficult when you know so much about a team. If you don't decide what is the real information you need to prepare the game and give to your new players about old players, you can get into trouble.
"Ancelotti knows Inter very well, He worked all his life in Italy in football, played against Inter dozens of times, is a local man from the city. He knows everything about us and his players. I don't think it's an advantage."Reuse content