Maybe if his teams were more attack-minded than his press conferences there’d be a bit more love for José Mourinho.
In the sanitized media environment that is modern top-level soccer, we’re always going to report his provocative comments. But sometimes the mischievous plain-speaking comes off less like a breath of fresh air and more like halitosis.
Like Mourinho’s barb after Rafael Benítez’s wife, Montse, made a joke about her husband cleaning up the Portuguese’s “messes” at Inter Milan, Chelsea, and now Real Madrid.
Mourinho’s riposte, via reporters in Washington:
“The lady is a bit confused, with all respect. The only club where her husband [directly] replaced me was at Inter Milan, where in six months he destroyed the best team in Europe at the time.
“And for her to think about me and to speak about me, I think she needs to occupy her time — and if she takes care of her husband’s diet, she will have less time to speak about me.”
For a start, there’s the inference that bored homemaker Mrs. Benítez ought to be spending her days in the kitchen preparing her husband’s meals, not meddling in man stuff like soccer. Then there’s the fat-shaming.
If you want to criticize Benítez there’s so much on his resume you could go at instead, especially if you’ve won as much as Mourinho.
Benítez chose not to hit back, other than to say the back-and-forth should be kept professional, not personal: “I’m the coach of Madrid. I like football, I understand football and that is why I only speak about football. We are here to prepare for tomorrow’s game, and I just want to talk about Madrid.”
After last season’s relative calm, history tells us some sort of gratuitous Mourinho explosion was inevitable. Volcanoes always tend to erupt sooner or later.
But the rivalry with Rafa goes back a decade, to when the Spaniard was Liverpool manager and challenging Chelsea’s supremacy during some high-profile matches that turned bitter.
As Benítez put it in 2007: “We were good friends until we started winning, then he started changing his mind. It is the same with all the managers of the top sides. He has very good relationships with managers of teams that normally he beats.”
This hotheaded, ego-driven aspect of Mourinho’s personality seems at odds with the way he runs training sessions and matches with cool, calculated precision. But it’s another facet of his obsession with winning.