Chelsea boss Antonio Conte called Jose Mourinho a “little man” with a “very low profile” and a “fake” as he continued his extraordinary public war of words with the Manchester United manager after Chelsea were held to a goalless draw by Norwich City in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Chelsea face a replay at Stamford Bridge later this month after a tepid performance against their Championship opponents at Carrow Road, but the real entertainment was provided by Conte’s postmatch comments as he responded to Mourinho’s reference to his past implication in a match-fixing scandal.
Before coming to Chelsea, Conte was implicated in a 2011 fixing scandal while boss of Italian side Siena and served a four-match ban, but he was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing five years later.
After already calling Mourinho “a little, little man” in his postgame TV interview, Conte explained in his news conference: “I think when there are these types of comments, before [making them] you have to know very well the truth.
“The truth is that I was banned for four months from the sporting justice, for failure to report [match-fixing]. Then I asked for a real trial by court and they declared my innocence.
“Before you make this type of comment, before [you try] to hurt another person, you must pay great attention. You show you are a little man. You don’t know very well which is the situation.
“But I know him very well in the past. In the past he was a little man in many circumstances, he is a little man in the present and for sure he will be a little man in the future. Also if he wants to try to change his behaviours. But the person is this, Mourinho is this. You know him very well. The level is very low.”
Before his news conference, Conte spoke to the BBC and said about Mourinho: “He was a little man in the past, he’s the little man in the present, maybe he will be a little man also in the future.”
“When the target is to offend, to insult, I think that you are a little man”
“It’s not a surprise for me”
“This is his way”
Antonio Conte speaks honestly and openly about Jose Mourinho with @DesKellyBTS 🎙
Wow. 😳 pic.twitter.com/xR6W9VE3Gi
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 6, 2018
Mourinho sparked the latest hostilities with Conte earlier this week by referring to some managers who are “a clown on the touchline,” and the Chelsea coach responded by suggesting that his United rival might have a memory problem that has made him forget his own past behaviour on the pitch.
Mourinho in turn took exception to that and said after United’s FA Cup win on Friday night: “What has never happened to me and will never happen is to be suspended for match-fixing.”
Asked about the feud on Saturday, Conte added: “This is not my problem. I consider him a little man, a man with a very low profile. There is a story to speak for him and for me. You can change the story. But you have to know the story very well before hurting another person. In the last period he’s suffering a bit of amnesia.
“When you become to be older, there is this type of risk. Also for me, and for you. For [everyone]. The problem is if you show this. He must pay great attention. He’s doing this with regularity.”
Asked when Mourinho had proven himself a “little man” in the past, Conte replied: “I remember, for example, a stupid example with [manager Claudio] Ranieri. When he was in Italy he offended Ranieri for his English. Then when Ranieri was sacked [by Leicester City] he put on a shirt [with initials on it in support of] Ranieri. This shows you are a fake.
“I think you have good consideration for a person or not. It doesn’t change your opinion to be more sympathetic. 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.”
This spectacular escalation in tension between Conte and Mourinho means all eyes will be on the Old Trafford touchline when Chelsea visit United in the Premier League on Feb. 25, and the Italian insisted he will relish the occasion.
“The situation is very clear,” he continued. “I don’t have anything to clarify. It will be the opportunity [to clarify things] 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.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.