Walter Mazzarri says his previous spats with Antonio Conte have been blown out of proportion, adding he counts the Chelsea manager as a peer rather than a friend.
Mazzarri had several run-ins with Conte in Serie A, accusing him of imitating his 3-5-2 formation during the 2011/12 title race between Napoli and Juventus. The pair also declined to shake hands on another occasion in a grudge that is similar to the one between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.
“Friends is a very important concept,” said Mazzarri. “I respect Conte as a person, as a manager. I saw him at a Premier League meeting [at the start of the season]. Of course [I will shake hands]. We shake hands at managers’ meeting. He even came to visit me at Inter, to see the training. There was mutual respect but friends is a very different concept. I have just a few real friends. When you are fighting for the title of course me and Conte did things for our own interest, but the media made everything bigger than it was. The best way is to say we have a good, professional relationship.”
The frosty backdrop provides a fascinating subplot to tomorrow’s intriguing clash at Vicarage Road.
“When we were in the Italian championship and fought for the title, Juventus against Napoli, yes (things happen)…but when you stay up, when you are fighting for a title, everyone thinks about his own club,” said Conte today, “but the relationship is very normal. I have great respect for him and for his work. He’s a good manager. I will shake his hand, no problem. But I repeat: I saw him at the coaches’ meeting and spoke with him, with the assistant coach too.”
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