O Antonio, Antonio! Wherefore art thou, Antonio?
Love is a bittersweet mistress. It can elate, and it can sicken. It can bring joy, and it can bring despair. In short, the power of love is a curious thing.
When it all comes crashing down, it tends to leave those painfully struck reeling in unhappiness. Like a pair of swooning love-troubled teens, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte are suffering now.
They’ve undoubtedly been on the blower to their mates all evening, sobbing their eyes out after a few too many comfort beers. Tragically, a flourishing and beautiful relationship is coming to an end. And they know it.
It may have been brief but, boy, was it burning. The impassioned love/hate relationship between the United and Chelsea gaffers has been red hot since October 2016 and, like all couples, they’ve had their ups and downs.
We’ve seen spats blow up in public, with a war of the words raging for the best part of two years. Secretly – though we all knew it – the pair are very fond of one another and these bickerings are simply part and parcel of a developing relationship.
It’s just like being back in primary school. The old, textbook tactic for the kid who wants to pull. Fancy someone? Be rude to them. Cupid himself approves of the tried and tested method.
For all this time, Jose and Antonio have been flirting in that most foolproof of schoolboy ways. But with the Chelsea boss unquestionably on his way out following Saturday’s FA Cup Final, it looks as if the good times will soon be coming to an end.
It’s been on the cards for a while, awkwardly looming over the pair and adding pressure to their already strained romance. Take one look at Mourinho to see just how damaging a painful break-up can be.
The fella can barely lift a smile.
Just what will become of him when his opponent leaves the country? Knowing that a long-distance job could never possibly work out, the pair have sadly been winding things down.
Mourinho was reportedly seen last weekend stocking up on industrial quantities of ice-cream and rom-coms, stifling a tear as he checked them out at the till. Neighbours have filed complaints over the volume of music coming from the manager’s house. Apparently it was the eighth rendition of Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ that took the biscuit. It was their song.
Close friends of the Portuguese have reported hearing – in the dead of night and through broken whimpers – “Oh my Tony, you look wonderful tonight”, though we can’t be certain they’re not taking the p**s with this one.
Meanwhile in London, the heartbroken Italian has been bawling out below-par insults into thin air, desperately willing his counterpart to mug him off just one last time. He still cradles the United gaffer’s Sporting Lisbon jersey; unwashed since a late-night jog round the lanes of Surrey. It comforts him through the dark, lonely, frenemy-less hours.
Saturday’s fixture will no doubt be an emotional rollercoaster for the pair, a final swansong; a chance to say goodbye one last time. The result is immaterial.
Keep an eye out for the post-match handshake. Where once it was loaded with contempt and malice, on Saturday there will be a glint of sorrow swelling in each gaffer’s watery eye. Note the tenderly extended grip and soft clasping of the shoulder, too.
But, most importantly, spare a thought for the United boss. With both Wenger and Conte departing, the fella will quite literally be all by himself. The old-guard for spatting with are gone and Jose is all alone.
So, Pep, fancy some Jose lovin’? My bald darling, you look wonderful tonight.