Mourinho picks fight with rivals on team orders

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho, the outspoken coach of Serie A's Internazionale, monopolised the headlines in Italy again on Sunday with his suggestion that coaches in the country's top flight allow their club presidents to pick the team. Pressed in a television interview as to what he had meant by earlier remarks about some Italian coaches "lacking professional dignity", Mourinho replied: "I pick the team. A lot of other coaches don't. They allow other people to suggest the line-up for them. If someone tried that with me, the next day my office would be empty and my bags packed."

The former Chelsea coach has already lost the esteem of a large part of the Italian press for some of his more extreme attacks on rival clubs – combined with Inter's early elimination from the Champions League – and now risks alienating his colleagues. His comments sparked an immediate reaction from fellow coaches. The Cagliari coach, Massimiliano Allegri, called the comments "pathetic. To get involved in the business of other coaches shows a lack of respect." Renzo Ulivieri, the president of the Italian coaches' association, was characteristically blunt: "He's pissed outside the bowl this time," he said, using an Italian idiom meaning that Mourinho had been wide of the mark. "Ask [Marcello] Lippi, [Luciano] Spalletti, [Fabio] Capello or even Allegri if someone else picks their team."

The former Italy coach, Roberto Donadoni, now coach of Napoli, described Mourinho's outburst as "not very elegant and not very polite." He added he was astonished Mourinho felt he "knows so much of the detail of other situations. He probably just threw it out as one his typical phrases to gain attention."

The comments were interpreted in some quarters as the latest snipe at the Milan coach, Carlo Ancelotti, with whom the Portuguese has been exchanging barbs all season. The Milan president and Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is well known for making public his preferences for particular Milan players and for suggesting which tactical formation his coaches should adopt. He has even joked on occasion that he had suggested substitutions to Ancelotti, who has always insisted that Berlusconi does not get involved in team selection. "I don't know if he's referring to me. You'd have to ask him," Ancelotti said, before adding, sarcastically: "If I'm the subject, I can only say that, with Berlusconi as coach, I've won the Champions League twice as a player and twice as assistant coach."

Mourinho's latest controversial views were expressed during an interview with the state broadcaster, Rai, which he began by insisting that he had toned down his public persona following widespread condemnation of a seven-minute monologue earlier this month. "From now on you'll see a new Mourinho," he promised. "I can't open my heart any more. I've decided to hold myself back. To be a hypocrite in a world of hypocrites doesn't do any harm."

Mourinho had been hit with a disrepute charge from the Italian FA for the monologue, in which he ridiculed Milan and Roma for their underachievement this season – predicting they would finish with "zero titles" – and claimed second-placed Juventus had benefited from a series of refereeing errors. With Inter beating Reggina 3-0 to maintain a seven-point lead over Juventus with nine games left, Mourinho can hardly blame the pressure of the run-in. Ulivieri, who has coached at all levels in Italy in a career spanning 42 years, had little sympathy, saying: "This sounds like one of those stories of a manager under stress, but real stress is what working people are feeling."

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