Antonio Conte understands where Jose Mourinho is coming from, and not just in terms of the current Manchester United (i.e. the enemy) boss’s shared history with Chelsea.
“As managers and players with one team you must give 100 per cent. Then, if you change your team, you must love this team in the same way, love the shirt, the players and the fans.”
“You have to try to put this new club in the best position and it is the same for Mourinho. Mourinho is United's manager and must fight against his opponents. I have zero problems with this. We have great respect for his history with this club.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Mail
There’s little doubt about either manager’s commitment to and capacity for fighting for their new club, though when some of that boils over to touchline conflict, that’s not really how Conte would prefer to manifest his love.
“It is very simple. The sporting conflict is the game and two teams are in a sporting conflict during the game. It is not a friendly game, it is a game that another team wants the three points and for this reason you fight with all your possibility to try to win.”
“I don’t like the conflict [on the touchline], l prefer to be concentrated and focused on my team but sometimes it can happen and it is normal for me and for the other coach to have sometimes this type of situation. But if you ask me if I like or don’t like it, I prefer to be focused on the game, to understand the game and to find the right solution if my team is in difficulty.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
For Mourinho, the touchline is just another theater in which to practice his dark arts of narrative manipulation, performing seemingly at all times in support of his main act that happens in front of the microphones in press conferences and TV interviews. Conte, on the other hand, lives every minute of every kick right alongside his players and doesn’t even like to watch back his own outbursts of emotion. Mind games, to use a rather overused term, are not his schtick.
“Many coaches try to manipulate the ideas but it is not important for me.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Mail
There was an excellent contribution in our comments section the other day, which summed up Conte’s public persona very well.
“In every conversation [Conte] is basically stating the obvious about how we need to be focused, how it is a big game, how 3 points are important, how they are a good team, how the league is tough, how we need to work and the rest of the usual stuff.”
And if the conversation deviates at all into speculation, regarding himself or any of his players or just about any aspect of the club, Conte is quick to shut the door. In his press conference on Friday, Conte called the question about which United players would get into this Chelsea team “not a good question” and dismissed the rumors about his own future as “not news [...] just noise”.
All that may be a bit boring, but Conte’s left the bulk of the actual talking to his work and and his team’s results on the pitch. Perhaps that is, in part, a language issue. And of course it’s very easy to assign too much meaning to every spiteful, angry, or even absolutely harmless and commonplace comment from Mourinho. But Conte’s normalcy and focus on the actual football has been a welcome breath of fresh air after the drama of recent seasons.
It of course helps that Chelsea are well clear at the top of the table and look on track to win the league.