x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Little sympathy for pushy Mourinho

Jose Mourinho is now in the eye of a storm yet again for apparently pushing the sportswriter Andrea Ramazzotti, and insulting him.

The big news in Italy over the weekend surrounded an assault. The victim is a senior media figure and his bloodied face was on all yesterday's front pages. Even scarred, it is globally recognised. The incident in which Silvio Berlusconi, media mogul, prime minister and president of AC Milan was attacked by a man wielding a metal souvenir of the Milan duomo had a jolting, shocking effect in Italy.

Less shocking, because far less serious or surprising, was one of the tales emerging from a strange weekend in Serie A. It also surrounded an assault. The victim is also a senior media figure. Here, the alleged assailant is a globally recognised star of his profession. He is Jose Mourinho, who is now in the eye of a storm yet again for apparently pushing the sportswriter Andrea Ramazzotti, and insulting him, just before he boarded the Inter Milan team bus after Sunday's 1-1 draw in Atalanta.

"This is a low point in the relationship between football and the media," responded Luigi Ferraiolo, head of the Italian union of journalists. "We demand action. This sort of behaviour only increases tension and controversy." Mourinho and the Italian media had been bristling at one another for a while. The Inter coach refused to give the standard pre-match briefing to journalists ahead of the trip to Atalanta and has often been critical of the way Italian television and newspapers cover Inter, and the game generally, during his 18 months in Serie A. It should, equally, be pointed out that no head coach is more eager to use the media to snipe at rivals, or cajole his own players than Mourinho. Although other managers also find the press suffocating, Mourinho will gain limited sympathy from his peers over this latest clash.

Besides, if the act was the symptom of gathering tension at the club, the immediate circumstances hardly provoked it. Doubtless Inter felt frustrated at Atalanta to have taken the lead, through Diego Milito, only to lose Wesley Sneijder to two bookings and then two points when Simone Tiribocchi equalised after 81 minutes. But by then Mourinho knew his team's lead at the top of the table had actually increased. Defeats for Milan and Juventus mean Inter's lead over their rivals has stretched to five, and six, points respectively.

So, any damage done by Juve beating Inter eight days earlier had effectively healed almost immediately. More than that, Mourinho can look back on a period where, yes, his side took only a point from a possible six in Serie A but, in between, got their most important assignment, against Rubin Kazan in the Champions League, just right, by winning and progressing in that competition. Juventus had meanwhile failed to reach the last 16 and Milan struggled, though they qualified, against FC Zurich.

Midweek European exertions fatigued everybody, it seems. Fiorentina lost at Chievo, while Leonardo, the Milan head coach, cited exhaustion as the main reason for his team's surprise, 2-0 defeat to Palermo. "We didn't have the same tempo as recently," remarked Leonardo. He need not be concerned at the reaction of his beaten-up boss, Berlusconi, at the slip-up, given that it followed a previous run of five consecutive Milan league wins.

Juventus's head coach, Ciro Ferrara, sits less comfortably. A heavy loss at home to Bayern Munich last Tuesday was compounded by defeat in Bari. "It is not part of this club's culture to sack coaches," said the Juve president Jean Claude Blanc, before remembering he did just that with Claudio Ranieri barely eight months ago. "OK, it proved different with Ranieri. But Ciro is our coach for future." And the immediate future, alas for Juve, is the draw for the next round of the lightweight Europa League.