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Mourinho v Benitez: A look at the rivalry

September 17, 2015

- Grant Whittington

Football is nothing without rivalries, and the individual battles that dictate the course of results and history. While football rivalry is usually discussed in terms of clubs and fans, however, there have been numerous duels between players and managers that have kept sports writers from around the world busy. No battle embodies this better than the one between Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez, which was recently reignited after comments attributed to the latter’s wife.

Rafa v Jose: A Battle of wills

After a relative truce in recent years, Rafa Benitez’s wife reignited the feud after claiming that her husband had spent much of his career cleaning up the mess made by Mourinho at multiple clubs. This was derided by Mourinho, who not only questioned his wife’s logic but also made personal comments relating to Benitez’s weight. This subsequently saw the resumption of a personality clash that dates back 10 years to Mourinho’s first season in the EPL with Chelsea.

The debate began after Liverpool’s controversial victory over Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2005. After the linesman gifted a goal to Luis Garcia despite the ball not seeming to fully cross the line, Mourinho was critical of the red’s approach and Benitez’s management. More acrimony followed as Benitez’s reds dumped Chelsea of the FA Cup and the Champions League again in the consecutive seasons, with the Spaniard responding to jibes by criticising the Blues’ playing style and the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’.

An Ongoing Feud: Where will it end for Rafa and Jose

Even though both managers eventually left and returned to the EPL, the rift continued intermittently. After Benitez succeeded Mourinho at Inter Milan (where the latter had just won an unprecedented treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League titles), the club subsequently slipped to seventh in the league and lost the core of their trophy winning squad. This promoted the Portuguese to claim that Benitez has ‘destroyed the best team in Europe’, and triggered a more muted response from the chastened Spaniard.

Now that old wounds have been reopened, it seems as though this decade-old feud is unlikely to abate any time soon. This is perhaps to be expected with the combustible and attention-seeking Mourinho, although you cannot help but feel that Benitez is a more reluctant and unwilling participant in this PR battle.

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