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Mourinho and Conte’s bad blood caused by Jose’s Chelsea sacking, says Souness

Date Posted,April 14, 2017

Graeme Souness believes that the bad blood between Jose ­Mourinho and Antonio Conte has been caused by the Manchester United manager’s sense of betrayal over his Chelsea sacking.

Mourinho, booted out by the Blues last season just six months after winning the title, laid into Conte for going over the top with his touchline celebration during Chelsea’s 4-0 hammering of United at Stamford Bridge in October.

And the pair squared up again when the Italian prevailed against the 10-man Reds in the FA Cup last month.

But Sky Sports pundit Souness ­reckons Mourinho’s problem is with the players he left behind at the Bridge rather than the man who replaced him.

“I think Jose’s beef was probably with the players in the Chelsea dressing room because he will know the ones who were conspiring against him last season,” said former Liverpool, Rangers and ­Newcastle boss Souey.

The pair argued during last month’s FA Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge (Photo: REUTERS)

“Conte took the rap because he was the point of contact. But the bottom line is that, if Jose’s not winning, he’s against ­everybody. We are all the same when we are winning – we are nice guys, we are all good guys.

“But when we are losing, the world’s against you.

“I remember Jose ­running down the ­touchline at Old ­Trafford in front of Alex Ferguson when Porto knocked United out of the Champions League, so we’ve all over-celebrated in front of the ­opposition. I think that what’s going on with Mourinho and Conte tells you ­everything about the power of the ­modern-day player.

“Chelsea win the league with Jose Mourinho and, four months into the following season, he’s out of the door.

Graeme Souness
Graeme Souness has come up with his own theory as to why there is bad blood between Mourinho and Conte (Photo: Getty Images for Advertising Week)

“Conte takes over a team that were champions 12 months before and he is now getting the best out of the ­players Jose left ­behind.

“But, take it from me, if Man United were to win this game at Old ­Trafford, then Conte will be a lovely guy again in Jose’s eyes.”

Player power isn’t new, according to Souness.

He was dubbed Champagne Charlie by his Liverpool team-mates when he was a midfielder of world-class renown.

And, at Rangers, he signed seasoned England internationals Terry Butcher and Ray Wilkins to do his bidding in the dressing room.

Leicester City v Chelsea
Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea in December 2015 (Photo: Getty)

The difference now is that managers such as Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri can win the title one year and be gone the next, if players plot against them.

Souness said: “When you have a dressing room worth £250million and a manager who will cost nothing more than a compensation pay-off, it’s an easy decision for a board of directors to make.

“I’m not sure the players deserve ­criticism for that because that is how society is today and it’s the way the game has evolved.

“It isn’t necessarily the players’ fault that they now have so much power and that the tail now wags the dog.

Like Mourinho, Claudio Ranieri was also sacked just months after winning the league (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)

“Players still call the manager ‘boss’, but, in reality, that means nothing.”

Souness believes the contrasting ­fortunes of French midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante has been one reason why Mourinho is struggling to break into the top four, while Conte is on the brink of winning the title.

Souness said: “Jose needs a lot more from Pogba – and I mean a lot more.

“Pogba frustrates me. He has great technique and an outrageous ­athleticism, but I haven’t seen his ­decision-making improve. It’s not his fault United paid £89million for him, but right now he is finding life difficult in English football.

Souness has been impressed by N’Golo Kante but expects more from Paul Pogba (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)

“The manager and the club have supported him, but you don’t solve it with some magical words from the coach or manager.

“It’s about training properly every single day and solving it yourself. Kante is a ­different type of midfield player, but has been ­fantastic for Chelsea.

“He really looks a player – he makes Chelsea look very good – and, even if they don’t go on to win the ­Premier League, he would still be my player of the year.”

  • Sky Sports will show Manchester United v Chelsea exclusively live along with the North London and Manchester derbies later this month.
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