Club Focus – Inter – Mourinho’s war of words: clever tactic or proof of Inter’s strength?

It is no shock to turn on the television or open a newspaper and see Jose Mourinho, casually sat back, informing the world’s media of his latest opinions on various football-related topics. These generally include referees, the media, other managers or some injustice that has befallen him. His most recent issue is that he has taken umbrage with Inter’s coach, Rafael Benitez.

Mourinho did not exactly mince his words, in a recent Press conference: “Benitez will not have to work as hard as I did because in one month he has the chance to win three trophies, the Italian Super Cup, the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup. It’s heaven for him. A Coach who arrives at a new club usually has to build a team. While Benitez finds everything ready: the club and the players.” This statement was letting the world know that – in his eyes – he built the treble-winning squad and it is now so good, Benitez cannot fail but conquer all that comes before him. It seems as if he was intentionally setting Benitez up for a fall as well as making sure everyone knew any Inter success is down solely to Jose. Arrogant? In the extreme – but Mourinho does not mind this. In fact, he would have it no other way.


Predictably, Benitez responded to his eternal rival by playing down his own role in Inter’s victories. But then he continued: “It is clear to all that this is a strong side and it was already when he first arrived at Inter. It’s always the same basic issue, we talk about who wins: in other words, the club and the players. If everything was so perfect, then, why isn’t he here? Why did he decide to join another club? It was his decision…” Benitez’s rejoinder to this unprovoked attack not only resulted in his heaping praise upon praise on the team, which,perhaps, helped him distance himself from the personality of Mourinho, but also directly challenged the logic of such reasoning. Indeed, one could reasonably argue that the Portuguese simply reaped the benefits of Roberto Mancini’s work before him. However, Mourinho may have had ulterior motives for launching this barrage, as Benitez, subtly, seems to suggest.

Jose Mourinho is renowned for being an expert at deflecting the attention away from his team by putting all the pressure on himself. During Inter’s fantastic treble last year, the Portuguese coach thought fit to attack the referees, the Italian league, the Italian football system as a whole, other managers and especially the media. This led to all of the world press talking about one man: Mourinho. Not such a bad deal for him, one might say, as this both boosted his notoriety and prevented a hostile Italian press attacking his players. Therefore his team was happy, played well and ostensibly proved Mourinho right. It seems this is exactly what he is doing again. The new season in Spain is about to get underway and all eyes will be on his Real: widely perceived to be the world’s best team, with the world’s best manager – for them – failure is not an option. For this reason, as long as Mourinho keeps criticizing other squads or managers, people will be less likely to question whether his players are up for the challenge.

There may be one more reason why Jose is so quick to attack Benitez and in turn his former employers. Since his arrival in Spain, he may have noticed how Real, with or without new additions, is neither as strong nor as committed as the Inter team that won the treble. This would explain why the “Special One” seems really determined to take credit for any success the Nerazzurri might achieve, as if he recognized their superiority. By wanting to avoid Inter and Chelsea in the Champions League, Mourinho must have realized how his dream job might be a lot tougher than he had anticipated. One can only wonder at the feelings of the Portuguese, in the event of an Inter victory over Atletico Madrid tonight. Was he fully aware of the team’s strength and prowess before he left, or did he not realize the actual extent of its potential? The truth of the matter is that it might take Mourinho up to three or four years to make his mark on Real Madrid but, even at that stage, they will still likely have to share the limelight with a formidable Inter indeed.

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