To recap, the pair have clashed repeatedly since October 2016 when Conte replaced Mourinho at Chelsea – famously dubbing a 10th-place finish in 2015-16 as the “Mourinho season”. used to – and the Portuguese then took charge of Manchester United.
Among many highlights, Conte described Mourinho as “a little man” and accused him of senile dementia, and Mourinho alluded to his rival’s hair transplant and historic match-fixing ban.
They reached an uneasy truce in February 2018, though both have certainly not forgotten the intensity of the feud as they prepare to reunite in Israel.
This weekend, there is an added dynamic to the rivalry, with Mourinho facing his former club, who have been succeeded (indirectly) for the third time by Conte.
Mourinho remains bitter about his time in north London after being sacked six days before the Carabao Cup final and Spurs are his only club since Porto, where he won silverware following Roma’s Europa League triumph last season. Ware has failed to deliver.
Since taking the job in November, Conte has clearly been concerned that he could suffer the same fate, and there is a question whether his time at Spurs is the same as Mourinho’s 17 months in north London. I retroactively (or otherwise) reflects.
Conte’s decisions on certain individuals – notably Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele – have validated many of Mourinho’s decisions and, by and large, both managers have relied on the same players.
The question throughout Mourinho’s reign was whether Spurs had a good team in dire need of a progressive coach or, as the ‘Special One’ often seems to suggest, a substandard squad that was almost coached. was out of
The debate divided fans between those who saw Mourinho as a problem and those who felt he had not been given the tools to succeed. Unhelpfully, both camps could claim they were fine in light of Conte’s nine months in charge.
On the one hand, the Italian has admitted he underestimated the quality of the squad when he accepted the job, and his repeated laments about the gulf between the likes of Chelsea last season have backed up Mourinho’s claim that Spurs is below standard.
That said, Conte still managed to do what Mourinho never looked capable of, organizing the squad into a cohesive unit and leading them back into the Champions League. So he can claim Mourinho’s reappearance, even though Conte has clearly enjoyed favorable conditions.
He has the top centre-back Mourinho has always coveted in Cristian Romero and is working alongside managing director Fabio Paratecchi, who many say has been as influential in the pace and performance of Spurs’ summer business. The style has been as demanding as the head coach.
In contrast, Mourinho worked directly under Daniel Levy, and during the pandemic when the chairman feared for the club’s immediate financial future.
Although Mourinho had some support in the transfer market in January and summer 2020, most of his signings fell through and the club today is in a much stronger financial position to rebuild (albeit partially , of course, because Conte called them back (Champions League).
To hammer home the point, both managers signed the Brazilian forward as an understudy to Harry Kane in his first summer. Mourinho was Carlos Venezia, a journeyman loanee from Benfica who never looked fit to play in the Premier League, while Conte’s was Richarlison, a £60m signing and Brazil’s current number 9, who is the English football star. I have already been proven.
Conte values the reliable Pierre-Emile Hodgeborg, signed under Mourinho, while perhaps his greatest legacies lie in Kane and Son Heung-min, who have adapted their games to the under-59s. Leia and continued to improve with Conte.
But Mourinho also left deep-rooted problems at Spurs, which his immediate successor Nuno Espirito Santo was unable to fix.
Conte inherited an unbalanced squad severely lacking in fitness, a dressing room rife with factions and infighting, and a club lacking a modern management structure.
Mourinho has been impressing at Roma but was the wrong man at the wrong time for Tottenham, not the cause of most of their problems but not always likely to be the solution. Conte, by contrast, currently appears to be the best coach for this newly ambitious, post-pandemic Spurs, who want to win under Levy and Paratecci.
Given the context, the pair are likely to deal in platitudes this weekend but it will be interesting to know what each thinks about the other’s Spurs reign in private.
Mourinho can claim that Conte is completing the squad rebuilding process and turning Mauricio Pochettino’s remnants from almost men into winners, which he started. Conte may consider that he has to pick up the pieces from another ‘Mourinho season’.