Antonio Conte navigated the treacherous waters of the English media with admirable safety last season, getting drawn into brief controversies only with regards to touchline incidents with Mauricio Pochettino and José Mourinho. Even when old foes from Italy, like Walter Mazzarri were on the slate, Conte sidestepped any potential shenanigans with bland, non-controversial quotes.
This season, it’s already a different story. The armor of unfamiliarity and careful word choice in a new language has been slowly eroded. Mild takes about Harry Kane or the pressures that Spurs managers are under have already been blown out of proportion — by the way, Mauricio, “respect” is always earned, never demanded (also, Conte was probably responding to Spurs chairman Daniel Levy’s criticisms of Premier League spending more than anything else) — though Conte’s not entirely blameless, if we’re looking to dole out blame, since he himself called the unusual press briefing outside of the normal pre-match/post-match cycle in Singapore.
And then there’s José Mourinho, whose name Conte turned into an adjective in the post-match press conference after the Inter Milan match when he was talking about the terribleness of the last time Chelsea had to defend a title.
"Two years ago Chelsea finished tenth; that cannot happen again. We know the difficulty and for sure we want to avoid the Mourinho season with Chelsea.”
"The coaches of the previous two champions [Chelsea and Leicester] both lost their jobs [the next season] and we are working very well to find the best solutions and use them.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Express
Could he have used another description for that season? Probably. He’s talked about that season many times before and never minced his words: “disaster” featured a lot. But this was the first time he associated his predecessor by name with Chelsea’s spectacular collapse. Is that so outrageous? I don’t particularly think so — everyone understood the shorthand for the royal cluster[fun] of that season and while Mourinho was probably not the only one to blame, he was certainly far from blameless himself. (And significantly, like Ranieri the season after, paid the ultimate price for it.)
Conte also must have hit pretty close to the mark, as when Mourinho was asked about this — of course he was asked about this; they were throwing a party in press rooms across England when they heard Conte talk directly about José — he responded in classic big special bully mode.
“I could answer in many different ways but I’m not willing to lose my hair to speak about Antonio Conte.”
-José Mourinho; source: Express
Get it? Because Conte was once losing his hair due to genetics and then had that fixed with a bit of modern technology. Yes, very good, José. So clever. A personal insult! Isn’t that nice? Setting a lovely example for all to follow.
But don’t think anybody missed you cutting short Conte’s name there at the end though. Keep on staying classy in the M16!