We’ve seen preseason play and preseason brawls, and now that José Mourinho has broken out the ol’ charcoal grill and laid on a couple thick slabs of Arsène Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini tenderloin, the aroma of preseason beef means the Premier League season is just around the corner.
The Chelsea manager gave an interview yesterday ahead of this weekend’s Community Shield against Arsenal, which is the final English friendly before the league season officially kicks off the following weekend. Proving how ready he is for what will very likely be another title-winning campaign, he was already flexing on the competition. Here’s when he starts riding on his enemies, from the Guardian’s transcript:
What about you – do you still relish that intensity, that battle –with other managers?
Not with the other managers. My team against the other teams – yes. My team in the competition – yes. I am more than ready.
Doesn’t it upset you that Manuel Pellegrini did an interview [over the summer] saying that when Chelsea win, it’s all about you?
No. When a manager is on holidays and even in holidays and still thinks about me and speaks about me, I have nothing to say.
The Pellegrini interview in question was one the Man City manager gave in his native Chile a month ago, in which he attributed to Mourinho a tendency to make his teams’ success all about him, and that Pelligrini “differ[s] from him on all fronts.” Back to Mou:
Why does he do that – is he obsessed by you?
I don’t know. In my holidays I did zero interviews. Since I left London, zero.
Are you still thinking?
About football? Yes. But I don’t do any interviews, at least in that time. You are free of everything, questions, answers, controversy, misinterpretation, overreaction. You are free of everything. My holiday time – zero. If other guys use holiday time also for interviews, it’s their problem.
Why do you think they speak about you? Why do you think other managers get annoyed by you? Do you have a theory why?
No. I finished the season, I went on holiday, nothing. Since I come [back], in relation to other managers – nothing. So until the first one comes, nothing.
Why do you refer to Pellegrini as Pellegrino?
Because I had a player called Pellegrino and because there were two in football at the same time, one was Mauricio Pellegrino and Mr Manuel Pellegrini. I always made a mistake by calling one the other. But the last thing would be a lack of respect.
This is supposedly innocent mixup is hard to buy since Mourinho has been going in on Pellegrini for years now. Pellegrini was Mourinho’s predecessor at Real Madrid, where the Chilean was only afforded one season with a stacked though unbalanced squad that he managed to take to the club’s highest-ever league point tally (96, which was only good for second behind Barcelona’s then-La Liga record of 99).
Mourinho was brought in to basically be Pellegrini’s polar opposite—loud and brash where Pellegrini was soft-spoken and humble, about counters and defense where Pellegrini favored possession and attacking. Pellegrini never got a chance to build something in Madrid after just one season, and the suspicion was that Mourinho would come in and win with the team he’d molded.
As confident as Mourinho comes off publicly, there’s an undeniable bit of insecurity behind his bluster. He probably resented the whispers about him inheriting a ready-made winner that threatened to undermine his Real success to some degree, as had sort of happened during his time at Inter, where Roberto Mancini playing the Pellegrini role. Thus, he struck out at Pellegrini right away, who by that time was managing fellow La Liga club Málaga. In an early press conference in Madrid, Mourinho said that should he get fired by Real he wouldn’t slum it with some Spanish also-ran (as Pellegrini was doing). Instead, he’d make his way back to the big clubs of England or Italy.
From then on he continued needling the man he often called “Pellegrino” in Spain and now in England, with Pellegrini repeatedly attempting to brush the comments aside. Despite his protestations to the contrary, the Chilean couldn’t hide his fundamental annoyance with the Portuguese manager, and Mourinho more or less proved why the “why u mad, bro?” rhetorical technique remains undefeated.
The English soccer press being what it is—that is, generally clueless about the tactical side of the game and thus over-reliant on simple narratives about Born Winners and Those Who Want It More; a lot like America with football, come to mention it—Mourinho’s schtick is like shit to fly. The British media is all too happy to play into Mourinho’s frame, and boy is Mourinho the framing master. “Oh, if it’s supposedly all about me, why is he the one running his mouth in interviews in the offseason?”
Case-in-point: Mourinho pivoted from reverse-psychologizing Pellegrini to ramping up pressure on Arsenal. This Arsenal team is the best one in a while, but without at least one or two moves, they won’t be able to compete with Chelsea and Manchester United for the title. The reality of this doesn’t necessarily get Arsenal fans down, though, since they acknowledge that their club isn’t like their other top-four rivals in that they don’t go around throwing tens of millions of pounds out the transfer window. Or do they?:
Arsenal have only bought your second choice goalkeeper and seem happy. Are you surprised by that?
I think they bought a fantastic goalkeeper and that is a position which is very important in a team. Every club is a club and we don’t need to speak about them but if you add up the amounts clubs have spent in the last three or four years, I think maybe you will find a surprise.
If you put [Mesut] Özil plus Alexis Sánchez, plus [Calum] Chambers, plus [Mathieu] Debuchy you will maybe find a surprise. It’s a fantastic squad; lots and lots of good players, a fantastic goalkeeper. I think they are more than ready to be title contenders.
Should Arsène Wenger expect to challenge to win the league this year?
I think every one of us. We have five teams who will play for the title, only one will win and one of us will be playing Europa League in two years. That is the reality: five teams for one title and five teams for four Champions League positions. Only one will be champion and one in Europa league .
Do Arsenal get away with the idea that they don’t spend big money?
This is the easiest thing to do – I don’t do it. Get a calculator. That is the easiest things, it leaves no space for speculation. If you want to be honest, objective and pragmatic it is the easiest job for a manager or journalist to do. If a manager is interested he can do it. I am not. But Diego Costa plus, Fàbregas plus [Asmir] Begovic; [Morgan] Schneiderlin plus; Alexis Sánchez plus this one; [Christian] Benteke plus Balotelli plus this one. It is easy and objective.
You will sign a new contract and be here for three or four years. Do you think Chelsea will win the Champions League in that time?
I cannot promise. I can only say that when it’s one of the best teams in England, in spite of the conditions which are very difficult for English teams to compete in Europe, every English team in the top four is going to be a Champions League contender. This season we are going to be, I would not say favourites, but we are going to be (contenders). Let’s say I’m going to stay here for four years of my contract. We are going to be Champoions League contenders for four years. Let’s see if we can do it or not.
In Mourinho’s world, Pellegrini is a hypocrite, Arsenal spend as much as anybody else and should be ready to win something big any time now, and, one way or another, the genius of José Mourinho winds up making all the difference. You can disagree with those points if you want, but you can’t deny Mourinho’s troll game.