'One of the best football managers in history' - Jose Mourinho offers up lavish praise for a long-time foe
Jose Mourinho reserved some of his most poisonous comments for Arsene Wenger during their time battling on the touchline in the Premier League, but he has now offered up glowing praise for the former Arsenal manager.
Mourinho famously dismissed Wenger as 'a specialist in failure' as their rivalry turned nasty, yet Mourinho has now admitted he has always respected the Frenchman who left Arsenal after 22-years at the helm last summer.
After Wenger received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards this week, Mourinho offered up this tribute for his former foe.
"There were some episodes along the road that I don't like to say I regret it or should Mr Wenger regret it too because this is really part of our history and we cannot go back and delete them and they were part of our history and our club's history," he told Laureus Sport. "What I can say is that the real respect is always there.
"I arrived in England and I found 'the Invincibles' and I found Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson very much hurt by that invincible Arsenal season.
"We were like a third force coming. Chelsea with a great desire to be champions for the first time in so many years. So of course it was the confrontation of forces and you can imagine that Sir Alex, Mr Wenger and myself we were fighting for the same.
"We were like, I like to say in football, 'sweet enemies'. In that moment it is hard. In that moment it is a real fight. But then in the end I think, at least I do that, I always thank my 'sweet rivals' to make me, to making me better."
Mourinho continued to goad Wenger after he left Chelsea for the first time in 2007 and once again when he returned to English football with contentious comments in press conferences, but he has thawed his opinions since their rivalry ended as he offered these comments when asked to describe Wenger: "A very intelligent person and one of the best football managers in the history of football."
One of the most vitriolic feuds in Premier League history certainly appears to have come to an end.