Jul 28, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has spoken about his respect for Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, claiming “he’s a very nice guy.”
The remarks about Wenger come as a bit of a surprise after the two managers endured a troublesome relationship during Mourinho’s first stay at Stamford Bridge.
It was during that time that Mourinho infamously referred to Wenger as “a voyeur” for commenting on his rivals.
But now Mourinho claims the two have become fast friends since a series of encounters at several of the world’s biggest football tournaments.
“I started meeting him in UEFA, at the Euros (European Championships), the World Cup, we had dinner and so on,” the Portuguese said in several newspapers today.
“And when you are not in the same league and when you are not playing against each other, it is easier to know people, it is easier to go deeper. It is easy to speak about football, he’s a very nice guy.
“I respect him a lot and I will show my respect always. (In) football sometimes even if you are friends and respect each other, you say something the other doesn’t like and you react.
“But at the end of the day I respect him a lot and I have the feeling that he is the same in relation to me. I wouldn’t bet on one single problem between us.”
So, are we to take Mourinho’s words at face value?
This could very well be the dawning of a new era of Mourinho. He’s older, wiser and has already rebranded himself ‘The Happy One,’ so it’s possible that he just wants a few friends in his second Premier League venture.
With old pal Sir Alex Ferguson now retired, Mourinho needs a new friend to sip scotch with after a long day at the park (although with Wenger it’s more likely green tea than booze). It’s also not unrealistic to think that Mourinho wants to align himself with a manager whom he perceives to be one of the few remaining members of the Premier League old guard.
As Mourinho re-enters the Premier League, he has a lot of catching up to do and there’s no better person than Wenger to provide the ins and outs of what has happened in England since Jose left in 2007.
On the other hand, Mourinho’s comments could be Mourinho’s way of telling Wenger and Arsenal that he doesn’t see them as competition this season. The Gunners are just “nice guys” who are not immediate threats to Chelsea’s title challenge.
When it comes to Mourinho and his penchant for mind games, one never really knows.
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