The sharp intake of breath from the assembled media was audible as Jose Mourinho resumed his war of words with Rafael Benitez.
Those who have covered Mourinho over the years have grown accustomed to seeing the Portuguese go on the offensive when he feels under attack. Just ask Arsène Wenger. But the level of response within the confines of the FedEx Field here took everyone by surprise.
Perhaps Montse Benitez was joking when she made comments about her husband always being around to clean up “Mourinho’s mess”. Either way it was naive and it has certainly backfired.
As Mourinho began issuing his reaction following Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Barcelona, laughter initially spread. It was soon silenced, however, when the manager, stony-faced, said ominously, “I’m not laughing,” and repeated the statement to make sure everyone understood he meant every word.
To add to the awkward atmosphere, Mourinho’s comments were being translated. It meant the power of his words, as he accused Benitez of destroying his Internazionale team of 2010 and told Montse to concentrate on “fixing her husband’s diet”, had twice the desired effect. With each comment aired, a shocked gasp was first heard from the English contingent, followed shortly by their Spanish counterparts, once the translator’s work was done.
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When Mourinho had finished and left, the room exploded into animated and excited chatter. The fact is, none of us should be surprised. The Chelsea manager has never taken kindly to anyone, whatever their intent, speaking about his coaching record.
More than most, Montse must be well aware of the enmity that exists between her husband and Mourinho because it is a feud that dates back a decade.
The duo were actually on good terms when they first arrived in English football in 2004, but that all changed once Benitez’s Liverpool knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League the following year. Mourinho complained about Luis Garcia’s “ghost goal” robbing him of glory.
Since then Mourinho’s disdain has regularly been on view. In 2006, he refused to shake Benitez’s hand after the Community Shield. Later he would question the former Valencia coach’s failure to win any league titles for Liverpool, his poor record at Inter (where he lasted just six months) and also poured scorn on winning the Europa League with Chelsea in 2013.
It has certainly not been one-sided. Benitez may have issued a bland response to Mourinho’s latest salvo, but the Real Madrid coach has proved he can give as good as he gets. After Chelsea won the Premier League in 2005, Benitez said Arsenal, Barcelona and Milan were far more exciting to watch.
Only last year he questioned Mourinho’s record in the Champions League, despite the fact he has two winners’ medals with Porto and Inter. “At Liverpool, with a squad half of the value of Chelsea, we twice knocked his Chelsea side out of the Champions League,” Benitez said. “Later, with the most expensive squad at Real Madrid, he did nothing in the Champions League.”
Should Benitez struggle at the Bernabeu, no one will be more delighted than Mourinho. They may be fighting for honours in different countries, but there is no end in sight to the battle between them.Reuse content