Jose Mourinho has been hit with a fresh blast from coach Raymond Domenech and defender Lilian Thuram as France refuse to back down in the row over the selection of midfielder Claude Makelele.
Chelsea insist they will not become embroiled in another unsavoury round of verbal sparring with the World Cup finalists even though Domenech and Thuram attacked the Portuguese coach for using the word ‘slave’ when talking about France’s refusal to accept the player’s retirement wishes.
Makelele told the French federation he wanted to quit international duty after their World Cup final defeat to Italy and underlined his decision in a letter to French officials on August 22 – two days prior to his call-up for France’s Euro 2008 qualifiers.
Mourinho accused Domenech of treating Makelele like a ‘slave’ and his comments sparked a war of words which continues to rumble on.
Domenech now claims that Mourinho’s use of the term ‘slave’ is both ‘staggering and insulting’ while Thuram insists the Chelsea coach was simply trying to be offensive.
Domenech declared: “To use that term is staggering. There are people who died to free themselves of slavery. To use this term is insulting. I did not give Makelele an option, I imposed his return.”
Makelele played a part in France’s 3-0 win over Georgia on Saturday but defender Thuram was equally unimpressed with Mourinho’s vocabulary.
Thuram said: “If Mourinho can use a word like this, it means that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.
“He didn’t say it because he is stupid but merely because he doesn’t know the meaning of this word.
“This has nothing to do with soccer. Mourinho made his comments to be offensive. I don’t see how Claude’s situation can be compared to that of a slave.
“The situation is clear. Domenech had the right to call up Claude for these matches.”
Thuram, like Makelele, was also forced out of international retirement by Domenech to help the country qualify for the World Cup finals in Germany.
“Last year, Domenech chose to bring me back into the squad against my will, too,” he added.
“Apparently he has made the same choice with Claude. He has the law on his side.”
Under FIFA rules, if Makelele had refused to play for France he could have been suspended from playing for Chelsea.
However, the 33-year-old midfielder may well be forced to miss out on their re-match with Italy on Wednesday.
Worryingly for Chelsea, Makelele remains doubtful after collecting a sore ankle which saw him retire from the action in the 58th minute.
Meanwhile, Mourinho insists his Chelsea squad are ready for the battle to land their third successive Premiership title – especially at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho has not seen any side of his, Porto or Chelsea, beaten at home in the league for four seasons and explained that mental strength was the key to such success.
Mourinho said: “We prepare ourselves well for the game and we are mentally dominant. We can transfer that mental dominance onto the pitch at home.
“We are ready to face difficult situations and fight difficult situations. We have also been ready for a team to finish stronger than us.
“Even at home you must be ready to go back and defend your result if your opponent is better than you at the time, so I think we are mentally very strong to play at home.
“The boys when they go into the tunnel, they are already feeling strong and again that is the culture of victory.
“If tomorrow you play and lose a home game, you don’t forget that for two years nobody can beat you. You lose the game but you go back and build another period of one year, 16 months or 20 months. This culture is powerful.
“The most important identity is the habit of winning. Last season when we won the Premiership, it looks like normal. The first time, everybody was on the moon. People cried – a lot of people with Chelsea hearts and players without trophies.
“The most important thing is the habit of winning, the culture of victory. If we do it again during our stay at the club – me and the players – you can guess that in 10 or 20 years time, with different managers and players, it is easy for them because the culture is there.
“So I think we are at a very important point for the future of this club by putting Chelsea at that level of the culture.”