The appointment of Jose Mourinho as manager of Manchester United today will see the resumption of one of the most talked about rivalries in Italy – his one with Walter Mazzarri.
The new Watford boss and Mourinho repeatedly clashed when Mazzarri was in charge of Sampdoria and then Napoli, so the games between Watford and Manchester United will be eagerly anticipated when the Premier League fixtures are announced on June 15. It all started when Sampdoria beat Inter 3-0 in the 2009 Coppa Italia. Mazzarri was cheesed off when Mourinho, in typically ungracious fashion, failed to give Mazzarri’s side credit, instead claiming his side deserved to win.
The row escalated a year later when Mazzarri was in charge of Napoli and held Inter to a goalless draw. Again, Mourinho said his side deserved to win.
“Mourinho talks, talks, talks and talks rubbish, so much rubbish,” slammed Mazzarri in Tuttosport. “The first time he did this to me was a year ago, when my Sampdoria won 3-0 without respite or debate. He said his team deserved to win. People have understood it now, they can see he’s taking them for a ride. Thankfully millions of viewers saw the game on television and know full well Napoli had Inter on the ropes, just as Samp did last year. If he insists otherwise, then he is just trying to convince himself. The most important judgment is the one of the football lovers who watched the game.”
Mourinho said Mazzarri’s team played “predictable football”.
“Considering how much Inter struggled, imagine if we had been unpredictable,” Mazzarri said. “The truth is they had a great deal of difficulty against us both in terms of physicality and quality. They didn’t even leave their own half for over a third of the game. I don’t like to stir up controversy, but if I am attacked in this way then I won’t be taken for a fool. This is why I replied.”
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis inadvertently fanned the flames by calling Mazzarri his “special one” when comparing the two coaches. Mourinho said Mazzarri had never won a trophy and so couldn’t assume his nickname. “He [Mazzarri] has never even won the Coppa Lombardia or the Coppa Toscana. Beating me is the most important thing in his career,” he said.
Mazzarri was therefore glad to see the back of Mourinho when he left the San Siro to join Real Madrid in 2010.
“Will I miss Mourinho next season? No, and I am not sorry,” Mazzarri told Rai Sport. “He will go to train an important team. I never understood any of his attitudes when he was here in Italy. Of course he won plenty with Inter, but he has always coached big teams.”
The passing of time seemed to heal their rift; they kissed and made up when Mazzarri became coach of Inter in 2013.
“I spoke to Mourinho in America,” Mazzarri told Sky Sport Italia. “It was the first dialogue between men who had in the past clashed. In terms of managerial style, I think I am quite similar to Mou. We had clashes because I was in charge of one team, he of another, and we grab hold of anything and everything to defend our sides. Every coach is an artist, each has his own way of viewing football, but in terms of man-management I see myself – and I think he agrees – very close to Mourinho’s style.”
The pair last pitted themselves against each other in the Guinness International Champions Cup, a tournament that took place in America three summers ago. Chelsea beat Inter 2-0.
“I now know Mazzarri well enough to say he can give Inter what they need now: a clear path and a precise idea to begin from,” Mourinho told La Gazzettadello Sport. “I cannot judge what qualities Inter have today, but at least that is something I can say with certainty.”