Ex-Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez admits Jose Mourinho is a great coach but refused to praise the Chelsea boss as a person.
The two managers have had a well-documented rivalry ever since they met as Premiere League managers back in 2005. Benitez’s Liverpool side famously triumphed over Mourinho’s Chelsea in the champions league semi-finals in that year thanks to controversial Luis Garcia goal and their war of words in the press has continued all the way until this season. Interestingly Benitez followed Mourinho to Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea also, when the Portuguese ended his first stint in Stamford Bridge few years ago.
Earlier this year Mourinho responded to comments made by Benitez’s wife with a stunning attack on the Spaniard’s struggles at Inter Milan and even his diet. The famous Italian manager’s wife allegedly said her husband had to clean up his predecessors mess on multiple occasions.
During an interview on a Spanish radio station La Cope, when asked to describe on three former real managers, Benitez once again revealed more ill feeling towards the current Chelsea boss. Presented with a picture of current Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini picture, Benitez said: “A great coach and a great person. I have a good relationship with him and he is great as a manager and a person,” and when shown a picture of Carlo Ancelotti he replied: “Carlo is a friend and he is a good coach and a good person.”
But when asked about Mourinho, Benitez refuses to engage in personal remarks. “A great coach and there we will leave It.” he responded when asked about the Portuguese coach. When asked if Mourinho is a good person, he replies, “I am free to have my own opinion, am I not?”
Rather he was more complimentary about Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. “I never had a problem with him.” He said, “We won the last European trophy that Chelsea has won and took them into the champions league.”
Benitez’s latest comments appear to suggest the Real Madrid coach has better things to focus on than his Chelsea counterpart, having succeeded Carlo Ancelotti at the Bernabeu at the start of the season.
The former Liverpool boss will certainly be the happier of the two at this moment in time, with Madrid currently sitting above fierce rivals Barcelona in the La Liga standings, just a point off the pace of surprise early frontrunners Villarreal having yet to drop a point since Benitez took charge. A report of feud among players in the dressing room doesn’t bother him much.
Mourinho has endured contrasting fortunes so far this term though, having seen his title-defending side win just two of their opening eight games to sit mired in 16th place in the Premier League table.