Sport Soccer

Saturday 20 January 2018

'Complaining is what Wenger always does'

Mourinho takes dig at Arsenal boss as he laughs off claim Mata sale part of plan to spike Gunners title bid

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho during a press conference
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho during a press conference

Henry Winter

CHELSEA'S deals to sell Juan Mata to Manchester United for £37m and buy Mohamed Salah from Basle for £12m were driven by footballing and financial reasons agreed by a Stamford Bridge brains trust involving Roman Abramovich, Jose Mourinho and executives such as Ron Gourlay tasked with meeting UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules.

"We have to sell for £20m and buy for £5m," was Mourinho's take on Chelsea's new strategy.

"We did two deals – Juan and Kevin de Bruyne (to Wolfsburg for around £16m) and put ourselves in a very good position in relation to FFP.''

In explaining the harmonious collective approach to transfers at Chelsea, Mourinho ridiculed Arsene Wenger's claim that the sale of Mata had been a "cynical" ploy because Chelsea have played United twice but their other title rivals have not so Mata could inflict some damage on Arsenal and Manchester City.

"Wenger complaining is normal because he always does,'' said Mourinho, talking at Cobham after training yesterday.

"It's something that we know. When a player plays for a club on August 20 and, two weeks later, on September 5, plays against the same club with a different shirt, this is normal.

"If Wenger sells Ozil to Man United, I will be very happy because he's selling a very important player. So, normally, he should be very happy that Chelsea sold a player like Juan Mata.

"But I think it's also a bit of his nature. We have to accept the way he is. But when he says that this is not fair, I think what is not fair is that his team always has the best days to play. Always.

"When you go to the fixtures this season, it's never fair because they always get the right to rest and the right time to play. That's not fair.

"I think it's not fair I play against Southampton, and I play twice against Lovren. And Lovren is injured and won't play against Arsenal. Is that fair? That's football!

"I call Pochettino and say: 'You don't play against Arsenal, you wait for Lovren to be ready! I want you to play Lovren and Fonte because against me you play Fonte and Lovren.'?''

Mourinho argued that Wenger could have bought Mata. "If a similar situation happens and instead of Man United, it's Arsenal or City, Tottenham or Liverpool, we would do the same if the offer was the same and Juan desired to go.

"A team can only play with 11 players, not 12. City, Arsenal and United are full of top players, so if Juan plays for them it means somebody else is not playing.

"So why not? Every club does this in other countries, so why not here?"

It has been a while since Mourinho has unleashed some barbs at Wenger, hinting that he might consider him a rival again given the quality of Arsenal's football this season. It was still fairly catty stuff.

"From what I know, in UEFA and Premier League coaches' meetings, he's a very intelligent person and someone who always has an opinion, and he always likes to show his opinion. He always likes to share that opinion.''


Mourinho could not resist a passing jibe about how long it is since Wenger has won a trophy; in praising the qualities of the teams fighting at the top of the Premier League, Mourinho observed that "Arsenal have had eight years building this team, and this team is perfect''.

The Chelsea manager first knew about United's interest in Mata "on the morning of Tuesday. For me, then. For the club, before. When the offer came in, I asked him: 'Are you really happy to go?' He said 'yes'.''

For all Mata's wonderful creativity, Mourinho prefers Oscar, who also offers superior work-rate, tackling and tracking back. Oscar was Mourinho's playmaker in the No 10 role.

"It's difficult for Juan to accept the situation. He's a player with status.

"I would play him, for sure, against Stoke on Sunday. Is he happy with that? No. If I play Andre Schurrle against Stoke, he will be happy to have that possibility to play. Juan doesn't want to play against Stoke in the Cup.

"Juan wants to play against United. He was not feeling good. He was behaving amazingly well, an example for others to follow, but no happiness.''

Out of the Chelsea side since the turn of the year, Mourinho said that Mata could go to Old Trafford because he "deserves respect, he deserves to be happy and to play where he wants to play".

Mourinho did not want to insist Mata be packed off to "Russia or China" just to deny him to Premier League rivals.

"He was fantastic for Chelsea and Chelsea was fantastic for him," added Mourinho.

"We are not afraid of him going. We want him to go there and be happy to do very well for United."

The transfer is not tied up in any way with Chelsea's enduring interest in United's Wayne Rooney.

"I don't think so. But I don't speak about Rooney. He's a Man United player. To say, 'You cannot go now, Juan, because United refused to sell us Wayne Rooney in the summer', that's not the way for us to act. If they decided not to sell, their decision.''

The Mata decision was a collective one, taken by a group of people at Chelsea balancing footballing and financial decisions.

"That group of persons had different philosophies but a common interest: what is best for Chelsea?

"If it's a purely football decision, I prefer to keep Juan because he's a player who can help us achieve important objectives, but others from the economic area said we should do it because the offer was fantastic.

"We cannot sell for £50m and buy for £48m. We have to sell for £20m and buy for £5m.

"That Chelsea sold a player for almost double is fantastic. I'm not an expert in the economical area, merchandising and commercial area. I'm only an expert in football and when I win!

"Chelsea are becoming a big club in every aspect. Before was the beginning. Before was 'we need cups, silverware to make us and help us become a big club. Now they are trying to balance their books."

With Nemanja Matic and Salah ineligible for Europe, Mourinho indicated that Chelsea were prioritising the Premier League ahead of the Champions League.

"We are,'' he agreed initially before clarifying his intentions. "No, we're not. We are prioritising the evolution of the team, the future of the team.''

For the Special One it was about recruiting "the right ones". And English ones.

"Important,'' said Mourinho. "So at least two academy players. It's the way we're going to do it now, opening the door to them.''

Asked about John Terry's future, and the possibility of a contract longer than the one year Chelsea offer to players aged over 30, Mourinho replied that there was a chain of command.

Abramovich is "the boss" and then there was the board and "I come behind" – a rather different image to the collective response to Mata.

Mourinho agreed that Terry was "the best centre-half in the country" but "the rule is the rule".

Chelsea's head coach said they lived in "a climate of trust", that he trusted his captain "and I think he trusts me''.

Mourinho dismissed concerns rising from Salah allegedly making an anti-Israel stand by failing to shake hands with players from Maccabi Tel Aviv.

"I know that Chelsea is capable of helping people and making people feel the way we think they should feel, which is, in football and life, be open and respectful to every ethnicity, every religion.

"We analysed the situation, spoke with the player, and the situation put in front of him at 20 years old was not an easy situation to resolve. He tried to do it where he was trying to find some balance – not enough for us, obviously, but no problems.''

Michael Essien, meanwhile, was last night on his way to Italy to finalise a move to Milan. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)



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