Jose Mourinho insists his relationship with Samuel Eto’o has been unaffected by footage showing him questioning the Chelsea striker’s age.
Preparations for the Champions League last-16 tie with Galatasaray tonight have been somewhat overshadowed by Canal Plus broadcasting a video of the Portuguese making inflammatory comments to a businessman at a recent sponsor’s event.
The recording, aired on Monday, shows Mourinho commenting on Chelsea’s lack of depth up front and questioning the age of striker Eto’o.
Not knowing he was being filmed, the Blues manager was recorded saying: “The problem with Chelsea is I lack a striker. He is 32 years old, maybe 35, who knows?”
Mourinho was apoplectic about the remarks being broadcast, telling journalists they “should be embarrassed” by what has happened when asked about the fallout in yesterday’s press conference previewing the first leg with Galatasaray.
“I’m not defending what I’m saying, I’m attacking something that is, I think, fundamental in your professional area,” he said.
“That person showed exactly what he is, or what he doesn’t know about the job. From my perspective, the comment is obviously not a good one, and obviously not something I would do in a serious way.
“First of all, because I don’t make fun. Secondly, because if there are managers in the world who really defend their players, I’m obviously one of them. And third because Samuel Eto’o is Samuel Eto’o.
“It was with him that I had the best ever season of my career. He’s one of the few players who is working with me at a second different club, and a manager never does that if he doesn’t like the player or the person.
“There is no story, there is no story. I repeat: it was a funny conversation between me and somebody who doesn’t belong to the football world.
“I really think it’s a disgrace that someone is taping and recording a private conversation when, obviously, we don’t know.”
Having twice been asked about the subject Mourinho snapped when a third asked about whether the relationship with his strikers had been damaged by the remarks.
“If you want to speak about the game, I’m ready,” he said. “If you want to keep speaking about some non-ethical journalist, I’ve had enough.”
With that, focus quickly turned to facing the Turkish champions and the various sub-plots surrounding the tie.
The match sees Mourinho go up against Inter Milan predecessor Roberto Mancini, as well as Wesley Sneijder, a key part of his treble-winning side at the San Siro.
However, the standout link is that between Chelsea and Didier Drogba. This will be the first time the Ivorian has faced the club he played for between 2004 and 2012, with his last kick for the Blues seeing them win the Champions League.
“I look forward to every match,” Mourinho said. “I like to play. I’m happy to do it. I like to do it against the best, and Galatasaray is the Turkish champions.
“To face Drogba, I know that is difficult and it’s a strange feeling, I have to admit that. But we have to do our job. We know he wants to do his job.”
For his part, Mancini has laughed off Mourinho’s suggestion Chelsea are not ready to win big competitions.
Having earlier this month become the first side to win at Manchester City this season, the Portuguese insisted his side were not serious contenders for the Premier League title.
Mourinho called his side a “little horse” in comparison to Arsenal and City, whose manager Manuel Pellegrini quickly hit back at such talk.
However, Mancini, now manager of Galatasaray, insists Chelsea’s class and experience makes his team huge underdogs for the last-16 clash
“It’s a young team, like ours,” the Italian said with a smile.
“I think Chelsea are on top of the Premier League because they’re a top team. They’ve fantastic players who are used to playing games like this. I think they’ve an 80% chance of qualifying.”
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