ANTONIO CONTE is finding it hard enough to win football matches at present and he will never win a war of words with Jose Mourinho.
One of the big factors that got Conte his job at Chelsea 15 months ago was the Italian’s unflappable diplomacy.
Jose Mourinho is the wind-up master and he launched an attack on Antonio Conte this weekHis solid but basic knowledge of English was actually seen as an asset by the Stamford Bridge hierarchy.
Conte wasn’t able to indulge in the managerial mud-slinging that epitomised the combustible Mourinho years as much as winning trophies, when Chelsea were the team everyone else resented most.
Owner Roman Abramovich wanted a tactical switch up top when he ditched Mourinho and plumped for Conte.
From a spiky war-mongerer to a flat-batting nice guy, who refuses to discuss players from other teams and who holds his peers in nothing but the highest regard, in public at least.
He even praised Arsene Wenger – once a sackable offence for a manager at Stamford Bridge.
The fact Conte cracked on Wednesday night says a lot about his state of mind at the moment and the state of the Chelsea team.
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But he is taking on the absolute master in wind ups. Mourinho knows what happens when you poke a wounded lion with a stick and it’s his favourite hobby.
Find a manager a bit under the cosh, find his weak spot and go for it. In this case the injuries at Chelsea, twisting the knife by stating: “Some managers cry and cry about injuries.”
Conte is too macho to cry but equally never looks like he is enjoying a match with his bulging eyes and mad histrionics.
Watching his players blow a two goal lead and seeing his game plan torn to shreds almost enough to give him a seizure.
Afterwards, praising the players for having the balls to fight back and salvage a draw is really another way of saying Conte got it completely wrong as his players were overwhelmed.
It’s even more surprising given the ploy of sitting Eden Hazard behind the right shoulder of striker Alvaro Morata had worked perfectly at Atletico Madrid three weeks earlier.
Chelsea is a different team now. Since that giddying night in the Spanish capital they have lost two Premier League games with abject performances to match and seen their imperious position in Europe come under attack.
Conte is unhappy with the size of his squad and frustrated with key aspects of his life at Chelsea.
What really rammed it home is that those at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday watched Roma’s Radja Nainggolan boss the midfield – 24 hours after Conte admitted trying to sign him last summer.
Conte strikes you as a smart guy and banging on about injuries is his way of getting a message across to the board that he thinks they have let him down in the transfer market.
But what’s not clever is that rather than engaging in a slagging match with Mourinho, now lobbing grenades from his dugout in Manchester.
Conte should use his tactical brain and take advantage of the situation.
Mourinho has just opened up the whole debate about injuries and staffing levels, doing the job for him. If Conte has any sense he will play along with his arch-rival’s comments, pretending to dab a tear from his eye.
In doing so, he will put the ball firmly back in Mourinho’s court while also getting maximum publicity from an issue close to his heart.