Jose Mourinho has reiterated his respect for Arsene Wenger ahead of the Frenchman’s departure from Arsenal in the summer and hopes the pair can become friends in time.
The Arsenal manager, following 22 years at the helm, announced last week that he would step down at the end of the season having seen his side languish in sixth and fail to record a single point away from home this year.
His relationship with Mourinho will always be remembered for the Portuguese’s branding of Wenger as a “specialist in failure”, to which Wenger responded by shoving him during the next game between the two.
But Mourinho, speaking on Sky Sports, insisted that he had utmost respect for Wenger and noted he wanted to become friends with the Frenchman over time.
“If he respects me even 50 per cent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” he said. “I have lots of respect for him.”
“But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football. But in the end I respect him a lot, I tried to show that in the past couple of years there were no more problems at a different stage of my career with a different profile.
“I feel sorry that after Sir Alex Ferguson – but it was obviously Sir Alex’s decision. The next big one, the next iconic one is leaving the Premier League.”
That back and forth in 2014 was the last episode of note between these two managers, who had over the years enlivened the English game by bringing two totally contrasting ways of winning to the table. There couldn’t have been a more pronounced stylistic and personal antithesis at the highest level of the game.
Eventually, though, one of them stopped winning. One of them stopped struggling. And as a result Mourinho, just like Sir Alex Ferguson, no longer perceived Wenger as a threat and duly let him be, hardly even mentioning him in press conferences or doing anything to stir trouble.
No manager, after all, is nice towards someone they think to be dangerous.