José Mourinho has claimed that no other major European league could produce champions similar to Leicester City because of the greed of powerful clubs who present themselves as “the Mother Teresa of football”.
The Manchester United manager did not name Bayern Munich directly, but they fitted his withering critique of European football as he argued why Leicester, United’s opponents in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday, have no equal on the continent. Barcelona and possibly even Mourinho’s former employers Real Madrid, were also on the United manager’s mind.
Mourinho refused to bite on accusations by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the Bayern president, that his treatment of Bastian Schweinsteiger would force other players “to think long and hard” about moving to Old Trafford. But he broadened his aim to accuse Europe’s leading clubs of stifling competition and fearing a success story such as Leicester’s in their own domestic ranks.
A reference to players being “stolen” from title rivals appeared to be aimed at Bayern, who signed Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund this summer and have in recent years lured Robert Lewandowski and Mario Götze from the same club, although the latter has now returned.
Asked whether Leicester’s title triumph had changed English football, Mourinho replied: “Maybe English football has changed them. This is the only country where everyone wants this to happen. This is the only country where the football structures allow this to happen. In the other countries the powerful clubs don’t want this to happen. In the other countries they do not want to have to share the money. They don’t want to share TV rights.
“In the other countries they want to be comfortable and know they will always be the top dogs in the Champions League. They want it to be a competition of two, three or four and if possible a competition of just one. So this is a special country.
“You have, around Europe, people who when you listen to them it looks like they are the Mother Teresa of football but they are not. You go to many countries and clearly they are happy the way they are. It is not just about them being powerful. It is also to go to the clubs that can be direct competition and every season steal their best players so they don’t want a league. In this country we want a league. Everybody wants a league. An amazing story like Leicester brings even more credibility to the Premier League and that’s why the Premier League is the Premier League.”
Germany’s Bundesliga benefits from collective television rights, unlike Spain and to a lesser extent Italy.
Mourinho has backed Claudio Ranieri’s team to challenge again this season with “a better squad” but believes their Champions League debut could prove a complication. “I think it will be a different season for them but they can cope with the situation. They have a new experience playing the Champions League which changes the profile of their season. They have a minimum of six big matches to play in between Premier League matches so that changes their season but they have a better squad. They have bought good players. The manager is good, he is experienced. I think they can cope. I hope they cope. I wish everything goes well for them.”
Mourinho was on the losing side with Chelsea in the Community Shield last season and ultimately lost his job after a dreadful start to the campaign, one that followed a brief pre-season training programme. He would not be drawn on any parallels between United’s disrupted summer and events of 12 months ago. “I don’t speak about my previous club, not at all,” he said. But Mourinho admitted United’s preparations before Wembley have been far from ideal.: “Our pre-season was strange, good for some players but not enough for others. The number of matches was not enough. The match not played against [Manchester] City was really bad for us.
“The week of work I can change and say the week of no work in China was really bad for us, so we need to train and play. We need minutes for the players. We need to train against other teams like against Everton and Galatasaray, but that is over. Now you have no chance against other teams.
“Now we have Leicester and it is not a training session. It is a game, especially for the players that were involved in last season. For them it must have meaning. You need to be the champion or win the FA Cup to play in the Community Shield and they did that last season. We have to face it as a game. We have six changes [substitutes], not three, so that gives me the chance to give minutes to some people, players who I know cannot have the condition to play 90 minutes. We will try to do a little bit of everything.”
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