“Won’t somebody think of the children?” Some moral panics are so predictable as to be entirely pointless, but the ludicrous reaction to the spat between Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte might help revive the UK economy.
Such is the scale of the attack of the vapours suffered by one journalist, smelling salt sales are due an impressive upturn. The painting of the argument between the Manchester United and Chelsea managers as something dreadful and disheartening is just weird.
There is one reason, and one reason only, why they should turn it in. That sole reason is that they are not paid to act like children in the press, and that it might ultimately distract them from the job in hand of winning games, buying the right players, and entertaining the fans. Neither of them, however, appear so distracted that anyone should think that it really matters in this regard.
United and Chelsea sit in second and third respectively, only trailing an exceptionally consistent and superior Manchester City side. In short, they are doing their jobs adequately, and as such should be free to get on with their lives as they see fit. See also the nonsense story that Mourinho should move out of a swanky hotel apartment, and instead buy a McMansion so he can live closer to the twin intellects of Steven Gerrard and Brian Kidd.
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Of course, the insults aren’t mature. Even the best literary spats never look especially sophisticated to any spectator. Rows between bloggers and half-cut journalists online are not edifying occasions. Office politics carried out with an audience of copied-in recipients are often little more than willy waving exercises done with the purpose of showing off far more than they intend to actually get something productive done. But it doesn’t matter, it is simply people making fools of themselves and sounding off. Unless it veers into bullying, or betrays some kind of offensive message, it is an irrelevant occurrence.
There has been only one sign of the argument going too far, and that was ignored by the very journalists who lost their nerve. Conte accused Mourinho of suffering from, ‘demenza senile,’ which was generously and defensively spun by Chelsea’s public relations as, ‘amnesia’. Anyone capable of replacing ‘z’ with ‘ti’ will realise that Conte was using dementia as an insult. From an outside perspective, using a degenerative neurological condition could understandably upset not just Mourinho, but other people suffering from similar, or with afflicted relatives. Chelsea plainly understood it was wrong to do so, hence covering up for Conte, and a supine press were too cowardly to make much of it. If it has to be a competition over who is being the most unpleasant, then Conte is clearly the winner here.
It was this insult which led Mourinho to levelling his promise that he would never be banned for match fixing. Of course, Conte was cleared by a court in Cremona, but he was punished with a four-month touchline ban by the football authorities. It is worth noting that in Italy, both Conte and Pep Guardiola suffered bans, for match fixing and doping respectively, but that both were overturned in Italy. Using such things as an insult, as Mourinho did, might be using the events to paint the worse picture, but at least they are based in fact.
The squabble, now, seems to have run its course. After being reminded of his ban, Conte was meeker following his side’s FA Cup match with Norwich City. The previously bald Conte accused Mourinho of being, ‘fake,’ and a, ‘little man,’ which showed that he didn’t have his heart it in it anymore. It might be that Conte was actually intimidated, but more likely was the fact he simply didn’t care enough to keep things going any longer. As mentioned, he has better things to be doing with his time, and can work with at least one new signing.
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Conte might like to take the back-and-forth as a positive sign. Mourinho has stopped accusing Manchester City of tactical fouling and diving, and turned his attention to Chelsea. As City pull further away at the top of the table, Mourinho is concentrating his efforts on his nearest rival, attempting to destabilise their pursuit of his club. Given he left Chelsea in the most embarrassing exit of his career, there is a chance Mourinho is just jealous being at the club he holds an affinity for, like a dumped boyfriend.
So, it might be a bit pathetic, and it might not paint the two managers in the best light. But football is not just about what happens on the pitch. It is about the personality of those involved. Sometime there can be noble gestures, great sadness, and incredible courage.
This is not one of those times. But there is no reason to pretend it isn’t entertaining, and that it isn’t the best thing that has happened in the Premier League all season. If our most prominent journalist is going all Helen Lovejoy, then it is our duty to tell children that, actually, when two managers start calling each other d***heads, then it is nothing short of brilliant.