‘Ranieri old, Wenger a failure’ – Mourinho mockery coming back to haunt him

The Chelsea boss has made fun of the Leicester and Arsenal managers, plus Manuel Pellegrini, but they are challenging for the title while he languishes near the foot of the table

'Ranieri old, Wenger a failure' - Mourinho mockery coming back to haunt him

Throughout his coaching career, Jose Mourinho has often had the last laugh. The most successful coach in the past decade along with Bayern Munich and former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, the Portuguese has relished putting down some of his counterparts. This season, however, it no longer seems so clever.

On Monday, Chelsea travel to Leicester for a meeting with the Premier League’s surprise package in 2015-16 – and his old foe Claudio Ranieri.

The Portuguese replaced Ranieri at Chelsea for his first spell in 2004. “It was the end of the cycle,” he said back then. But he later attacked the Italian when the two men were working in Serie A, Mourinho at Inter and Ranieri at Juventus.

“Ranieri has the mentality of someone who doesn’t need to win,” he said in 2008. “He is almost 70 years old, he has won a Supercup and another small trophy and he is too old to change his mentality. He’s old and he hasn’t won anything.”

The Italian was actually 56 at the time, while he has won a little more than Mourinho gave him credit for: a Copa del Rey and a Uefa Super Cup with Valencia, plus a Coppa Italia and a Supercoppa Italiana at Fiorentina. Nevertheless, Mou’s Inter side beat Ranieri’s Juventus to the title and he kept his reputation as a master of mind games.

Ahead of Monday’s match, however, Mourinho’s Chelsea are languishing just a point above the drop zone while the Italian’s Leicester side sit only one from the top with a game in hand. So, perhaps logically, it was a more gracious Jose who spoke on the eve of the game.

Nevertheless, there was still a hint of damning his rival with faint praise. “I think he won manager of the month,” the Portuguese said of Ranieri. “He should win manager of the half-term… the first six months.” And he couldn’t resist a barbed comment to go with it. “Last year, Ranieri was sacked by Greece for losing to the Faroe Islands,” he said. “Now, top of the league. It’s exciting.”

It’s nothing new, of course. Mourinho has often attacked Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, famously calling the Frenchman a “voyeur” in his first spell in charge of Chelsea, before labelling the Gunners boss a “specialist in failure” last year. He has also questioned how the 66-year-old has been able to stay in his job for so long.

But ahead of Leicester’s game at home to Chelsea on Monday, Arsenal are on top of the Premier League, while the question marks these days surround the future of Mourinho and not Wenger, who has put together an excellent side in north London on a much tighter budget than the Portuguese has had at any of his clubs with the exception of Porto.

And the other team looking like title contenders at the moment, Manchester City, are managed by another of Mourinho’s many adversaries: Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean coach was replaced by the Portuguese at Real Madrid and when the former later visited the Santiago Bernabeu as Malaga boss, he quipped: “If Madrid sacked me, I would go to a big team in England or Italy. I wouldn’t go to Malaga.”

It is all very well making such remarks while winning league titles and Champions Leagues, but Mourinho’s current tenure is proving much less successful, despite winning the Premier League and the Capital One Cup last season, and he may have to reassess his options if his Chelsea spell is brought to an end in the coming months.

In the Premier League, he has already had to do so and after last weekend’s shock defeat at home to promoted side Bournemouth, he said: “Our objective is to fight for the top four, but maybe now we have to think of finishing in the top six.”

It is quite a fall from grace and whatever does happen in the rest of the season, Chelsea’s current predicament means there is now little room for Mourinho’s customary smugness and arrogance.

And if Ranieri, Pellegrini or Wenger walk away with the title next May, it will be they who will have had the last laugh. For Jose, meanwhile, it’s just not funny any more.

Culled from goal.com

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Why Pogba’s No.10 shirt could be pivotal moment for player, Juventus & the transfer market

The Bianconeri hope that making the Frenchman their new No.10 will let Barcelona and Manchester City know that the midfield ace will remain in Turin for years to come

Why Pogba's No.10 shirt could be pivotal moment for player, Juventus & the transfer market

Earlier this summer, Sir Alex Ferguson advised Juventus to cash in on Paul Pogba. “I would sell him,” the former Manchester United boss told Tuttosport. “It’s true I let him go before but I would let him go.”

The Bianconeri refused to listen to the Scot, no doubt reluctant to take the advice of a man who had allowed the most promising midfielder to leave Old Trafford for nothing. Ferguson may not appreciate Pogba’s value, even now – but Juventus certainly do. Hence, Thursday’s announcement that the Frenchman will be their new No.10.

The jersey holds a mythical status in Turin. Omar Sivori, Fabio Capello, Liam Brady, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Carlos Tevez – the players to have worn the Bianconero No.10 essentially reads as a shortlist of the most influential players in the club’s history. Thus, deciding who should wear the shirt is never taken lightly. It is a carefully considered move – and it has been no different this time around.

Pogba, as has been well documented, is one of the most sought-after individuals in world football. Barcelona, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain – all of the game’s richest clubs have an interest in signing the 22-year-old. Indeed, so intense is the competition, so high are the stakes, that Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has admitted that even the Roman Abramovich-funded Blues have no chance of landing Pogba.

“I think everybody has an interest in Pogba,” the Portuguese told reporters on July 19, “but there are things you can do and things you cannot do. I love the Eiffel Tower but I can’t have the Eiffel Tower in my garden. I can’t even have the Eiffel Tower of Las Vegas!”

Mourinho may have had a not-so-hidden agenda in that instance, cheekily suggesting that Abramovich needs to loosen the purse strings once more in order to land the game’s elite players, but his appraisal underlines just how highly Pogba is regarded. Indeed, while Dutch icon Johan Cruyff may not believe the hype surrounding Pogba, dismissing Barca’s €80 million bid as “absurd”, but Juve fully appreciate his value to Massimiliano Allegri’s team – and the club’s marketing department.

After arriving in Turin in 2012, Pogba quickly set about proving himself one of the most promising young talents in the world, forcing then-coach Antonio Conte to start experimenting with Claudio Marchisio as a trequartista because the new arrival had become undroppable, an integral member of Juve’s midfield three.

Pogba’s influence has only increased in the intervening years and now, following the summer departures of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Tevez, the Frenchman is now undoubtedly Juve’s most important player. Giving him the No.10 jersey only reinforces that impression; reinforces that fact. Indeed, Pogba was a pivotal player even with the No.6 on his back but now he will be clearly identifiable as the team’s lynchpin, their star man – and the Bianconeri are going to sell many more Pogba shirts as a result.

It is also a significant switch for the midfielder on a personal level. This is not a man who runs away from pressure but embraces it; seeks it out.

Even before it was announced that he would be given the No.10 shirt, Pogba spoke openly of his desire to fill the void left by Vidal, a prolific presence in the Juve midfield. He wants more responsibility. Now he has got it.

The change of shirt number will not necessarily mean a change of role, though.

Massimiliano Allegri has toyed with the idea of deploying Pogba as a trequartista at regular intervals since succeeding Conte at the helm last year but he wants a specialist No.10. Hence, Juve will continue their pursuit of a classic attacking midfielder, with the club set to step up their bid to sign the versatile Julian Draxler from Schalke after their Supercoppa Italiana showdown with Lazio in China.

In that game, though, all eyes will be on Juve’s most prized possession.

The Bianconeri have made a clear statement of intent, sent an unequivocal message to their rivals: Pogba is Juve’s new No.10 – and will be for many years to come.

REVEALED: Real Madrid wanted ‘fear’ clause in Morata Juventus deal

Juventus striker Alvaro Morata is free to face Real Madrid in their Champions League semi next month.

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Morata left Real for Juve last summer.

AS says Real attempted to insert a clause which would see the player being unable to play in any competitive matches involving both clubs.

They also wanted to add another clause that would forbid the Italian side from selling Morata to Madrid’s eternal rivals, FC Barcelona.

However, UEFA refuse to recognise such clauses and the options were eventually rejected.

Nedved: Real Madrid not as strong as Barca & Bayern

Los Blancos won the 2013-14 Champions League but they have suffered a dramatic dip in form since the turn of the year

Nedved: Real Madrid not as strong as Barca & Bayern

Juventus director Pavel Nedved says that Barcelona and Bayern Munich are the best teams in Europe, claiming that Real Madrid are not as strong as they were last season.

Madrid won the 2013-14 Champions League, defeating Bayern 5-0 on aggregate in the last four before beating city rivals Atletico 4-1 in the final.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men embarked upon a 22-winning streak in all competitions this term but their form has dipped dramatically since the turn of the year, with Los Blancos losing top spot in La Liga to Barca and only scraping into the quarter-finals of the Champions League by edging out Schalke 5-4 on aggregate after a shock second-leg loss at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Consequently, when it comes to weighing up the respective merits of those involved in the race for this season’s European Cup, Nedved feels that there are two obvious frontrunners.

“It’s good [for Juve] to have avoided Barcelona and Bayern Munich, who are the best teams in Europe at the moment,” the former Ballon d’Or winner told El Mundo Deportivo.

“Real Madrid are not at the level of last year. But everything can change very quickly.”

Juve will face Monaco in the last eight after the Ligue 1 outfit sneaked into the quarter-finals thanks to a victory on away goals over Arsenal, whose 2-0 success in the principality nearly overturned a 3-1 first-leg deficit.

However, Nedved says he saw enough during the principality club’s win at the Emirates to suggest that they can cause the Bianconeri problems.

“Obviously there were more famous possible opponents we could have drawn, but we must not underestimate Monaco,” the Czech added.

“They went dangerously close to being knocked out at home, but they impressed me against Arsenal in London.”

Killing it softly: Roma incompetence robs Serie A of life

The Giallorossi put in another apathetic display to turn next week’s Juventus showdown into a sideshow

Killing it softly: Roma incompetence robs Serie A of life

At around 14:30 CET on Sunday, Parma’s disillusioned fans were congregated outside the Ennio Tardini stadium which had been due to host a home fixture with Udinese that afternoon.

The club’s mounting debt had forced the match to be postponed, sending the supporters on to the streets to make their feelings known about the impending extinction of Parma, one of Italian football’s pillars.

On the locked gates they hung signs saying ‘Chiuso per rapina’ – Closed due to robbery.

A few hours later, Roma hung a similar sign on the Serie A table. Their 1-1 draw at Verona was a sixth stalemate in seven fixtures and left them nine points adrift of leaders Juventus.

When the Giallorossi went to Juventus Stadium in October, the two sides were level-pegging and served up a fascinating end-to-end contest. It appeared that Italy had found its new table-topping rivalry.

But when they welcome the Bianconeri to the Stadio Olimpico next Monday they do so having already given up on this season’s Scudetto. A win on Sunday and victory against Juve would have given calcio fans a glimmer of hope. A four-point gap could have teed up a twist in the tale.

Instead, Juventus will arrive in the capital with a nine-point cushion that looks likely to widen rather than narrow. With every week that passes, Roma deliver another death-knell to the once burgeoning title race. They have robbed the Italian season of the crescendo it deserved.

Roma’s string of apathetic performances has given the standings an unmerited lop-sidedness. From second to 19th spots, the league has a true competitive edge. There are no gimmes when 18 of the top flight’s 20 clubs come together.

Yet just as Parma have been shorn of their dignity at the bottom of the league, Juventus have been shorn of serious opposition at the top. The champions need to be pushed harder for everybody’s sakes, including their own.

Bayern Munich found it tough to raise their game for the Champions League semi-final clashes with Real Madrid last season, having coasted through far too much of the Bundesliga campaign. Juve could find themselves in a similar situation when the going gets tough in Europe.

Roma were meant to put them under pressure until round 38. Rudi Garcia’s side had shown enough promise in 2013-14 to suggest that they had what it would take to ask greater questions of the Old Lady. Instead, we have a one-horse race before February is out.

Even if the Trigoria outfit come out on top at the Olimpico next week, the resulting six-point gap will still remain too large for Italian football enthusiasts to convince themselves that there is still life in the season.

When Francesco Totti fired them ahead in Verona, there was momentary hope. But Bosko Jankovic soon levelled, and were it not for Vassilis Torosidis’ last-ditch double-block in the second half things would only have got worse.

“Of course, we are going through a difficult moment,” conceded Garcia during the week. “We are much stronger if the players feel the belief around them. I want everyone to make their criticism constructive.”

But nobody has any belief in Roma anymore. They may even find their second spot under threat before long.

Serie A deserves more than this. It is a hugely competitive league, but not in the place where it really matters.

Juventus will win the league again this year. The rest of the world will nod sagely and go about its business. Italian football’s reputation as a one-team shadow of its former self will be enhanced still further.

But for Roma’s recent decline, it could all have been so different.

Tevez: I’m still leaving Juventus for Boca Juniors next year

The Argentine is a real fan favourite in Turin but he has no intention of going back on his longstanding plan to finish his career at La Bombonera

Tevez: I'm still leaving Juventus for Boca Juniors next year

Carlos Tevez had made it clear that he has not intention of extending his stay at Juventus and will return to Boca Juniors when his contract expires in 2016.

The Argentine penned a three-year contract upon joining the Bianconeri in the summer of 2013 and adapted wonderfully well to life in Serie A, firing the Old Lady to the Scudetto last season.

Tevez has proven even more prolific this term, with 13 goals in 19 league games, meaning the Juve faithful are understandably desperate to see the striker extend his stay in Turin.

However, the 30-year-old is intent on rejoining his first professional club, Boca, and is annoyed that the media have created such a furore over his future, given he never made a secret of his plan to return to La Bombonera.

“I’ve already said it many times,” he told Tuttosport. “For me, this discussion is closed.

“When I signed for three years with Juve, I said from the start, also to the club, that this would be my last contract before returning to Boca. But nobody said anything.

“Then, I said the same things again, including the fact I would return home at the end of my contract.

“But the problem is that when there is no news, they try to pull something out of nowhere.

“However, before leaving, I want to win it all here.”

Vidal tantrum not new in football, says Allegri

The coach played down the Chilean being upset at a recent substitution, insisting that reports of a fight between the two have been exaggerated

Vidal tantrum part of football, says Allegri

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has stressed that Arturo Vidal’s tantrum at being substituted is simply “part of football”.

Allegri replaced Vidal with Paul Pogba after 70 minutes of Wednesday’s Coppa Italia quarter-final, which Juve won 1-0 thanks to a last-minute goal from Alvaro Morata.

Reports surfaced in the Italian media that the star Chilean midfielder was unhappy with Allegri, but the coach has come out battling by insisting that such touchline grievances are momentary and part of football.

“Fight between whom? Between myself and Vidal? I was surprised to read about it on Tuttosport, I believe it was Tuttosport,” Allegri told reporters.

“First of all the day after the game I didn’t talk with the player because he was absent during training and that’s because he had fitness issues to take care of.

“Also, during the game, he was substituted but then came back because he had to nurse a knee problem. Granted, the player can be upset when substituted, but it’s part of the game, it’s part of football.

“But no, there was no fight with Vidal simply because there was no need to clarify anything.”

Juventus are back in action on Sunday as they bid to maintain their lead at the top of Serie A with a trip to Udinese.