Antonio Conte called Jose Mourinho a “little man” and “fake” before issuing an apparent challenge as the feud between two of the Premier League’s most high-profile managers intensified on Saturday.
Tensions were already simmering after two days of back-and-forth insults between the pair in news conferences.
Mourinho, the Manchester manager, started the spat on Thursday by saying he did not feel the need to behave like “a clown” on the touchline. Feeling that was a dig at him, Conte, the Chelsea manager, responded aggressively Friday by suggesting Mourinho was suffering from dementia because of the Portuguese’s behavior on the touchline earlier in his coaching career.
Mourinho then came out with the most explosive retort so far late Friday, saying he will never be “suspended for match-fixing.” Conte served a four-month touchline ban in 2012 for failing to report his knowledge of an incident of attempted match-fixing during his time as Siena manager in 2011.
The Italian was acquitted of any wrongdoing over the matter in 2016.
Conte’s latest dig at Mourinho came after Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at Norwich in the third round of the FA Cup. And it set up a potentially explosive meeting between the two coaches when United hosts Chelsea on Feb. 25 in the Premier League.
“The situation is very clear. I don’t have anything to clarify,” Conte said. “It will be the opportunity in the game against United when we go to Old Trafford. Me and him, face to face. I’m ready. I don’t know if he’s ready.”
Conte, 48, seemed unhappy with the 54-year-old Mourinho bringing up his past.
“I consider him a little man, I consider him a man with a very low profile,” Conte said. “When there are these types of comments, before (making them) you have to know very well the truth.
“Before you make this type of comment, before to hurt another person, you must pay great attention. You show you are a little man. I know him very well in the past. In the past, he was a little man in many circumstances, is a little man in the present and, for sure, he will be a little man in the future.”
Conte was more scathing about Mourinho’s behavior, providing the example of Mourinho attending a news conference wearing a training top with the initials “CR” following Claudio Ranieri’s firing by Leicester in February last year.
“He offended (criticized) Ranieri for his English,” Conte said. “Then when Ranieri was sacked (fired), he put on a shirt (with initials on) for Ranieri. You are a fake.
“If you want to fight a person, you try to kill this person. And then after two years, you try to help this person, because maybe it’s good for you, for your profile.”