Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez have never been the closest of friends and the Portuguese has re-opened the war of words.
It’s been a season of gloom for Benitez. He was sacked by Real Madrid in January and this week suffered relegation from the Premier League with Newcastle United.
Mourinho can’t claim to have had much better of a year - he’s been out of management since December since being dismissed by Chelsea - but that didn’t stop him aiming a sly dig at his old foe.
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The former Porto boss was discussing Real Madrid’s season, which Zinedine Zidane has done a wonderful job to turn around, and without mentioning Benitez’s name, managed to rub salt into the Newcastle boss’s open wounds.
Please, Jose. Hasn’t Benitez suffered enough this year?
The unemployed coach spoke at FIFA Congress on Friday, where he heaped praise on Zidane.
He said, per Goal: “Zidane arrived late during the middle of the season but has been instrumental in transforming the dynamic at the club.
“If Zidane wins the Champions League then everyone will forget about the problems that the club experienced pre-Christmas before the change of coach and the enduring memory will be that of an 11th European Cup win.
“Zizou has got his team to the Champions League final and for a team with an indifferent start that presents a massive opportunity to gloss over the season as a whole.”
Problems behind the scenes
Behind the scenes, there was problems. A rift developed between Benitez and Cristiano Ronaldo and falling out with the star man was the beginning of the end.
However, on it, Benitez’s side wasn’t scintillating but by no means did Los Blancos struggle. They were third in the table at the time of his sacking and four points behind then-leaders Atletico Madrid.
Benitez needed a miracle to save his job and a 2-2 draw against Valencia on January 3 wasn’t it. He was shown the door the following day.
But 13 days prior to his sacking, Madrid president Florentino Perez referred to Benitez as the “solution”, not the “problem”. That said, he isn’t regretting his decision to sack the 56-year-old given how the second half of the season has panned out.
Mourinho and Benitez’s rivalry stretches back to their days at Chelsea and Liverpool. After a few jibes from Mourinho in 2005, the Spaniard hit back after the two clubs drew 0-0 in a dull Champions League group game in 2006.
“To me, Arsenal play much better football. They win matches and are exciting to watch," he opined. "Barcelona and Milan too. They create excitement so how can you say Chelsea are the best team in the world?"
And neither has held back since that comment. “How many championships has Benitez won since he joined Liverpool? None,” Mourinho has asked, per Sky Sports.
“At Liverpool, with a squad half of the value of Chelsea, we twice knocked his Chelsea side out of the Champions League,” Benitez has argued.
It’s quite a shame they won’t be facing each other next season, unless Mourinho fancies a job in the Championship.