Former Serie A star Paolo Di Canio, now working as a pundit for Italian television, has refused to apologise for comments made in a leaked WhatsApp audio sent to a friend in which he referred to Jose Mourinho as the “worst of the worst”.
Mourinho was recently appointed as Roma’s new head coach, marking a swift return to the dugout after being sacked by Tottenham on April 19th following a string of poor results and bringing an end to his time in London after 17 months.
In the wake of his appointment, Di Canio had been exchanging voice messages with a Giallorossi-supporting friend known only as “Cra”, and the 52-year-old was damning in his assessment of the Portuguese being hired by the Italian capital club.
“You’ve got the worst of the worst,” Di Canio said in the recording. “I understand you needed a big name at this moment, but it’s like when you sign a player who is finished.
“Mourinho just wanted a job with money, he’s had his third sacking in four years, kicked out from everywhere due to the incompatibility of his character and before that’s all he was good at, having character.
“Now Tottenham gave him the boot for his results and incapacity to take the team to another level after two years with all the money they spent. He’s finished in every conceivable way.
“He doesn’t even play football, he plays anti-football. You might enjoy yourselves in a few press conferences, because controversy makes for good theatre, but let me tell you: to reconstruct a team, he’s the worst you could possibly get.
“And I can say that because he was my favourite up until seven years ago, even more than Pep Guardiola.”
In an interview with Corriere dello Sport released on Thursday, Di Canio claimed that the audio was merely a small part of a much larger conversation.
“Firstly, I don’t have to apologise to anyone. It was a private conversation and I can do as I please,” he said.
“Secondly, that audio was part of another six or seven messages in which I said very positive things about Mourinho. It’s cowardly that they only leaked that part.
“It’s a ridiculous and pathetic story. We were talking for fun, I was making fun of an old friend.”
He added: “There was talk of [hiring Maurizio] Sarri, of playing attractive football. I said that Mourinho has lost appeal. He no longer seems to me to have the strength, the energy, to stay at the top level for 24 hours a day.
“My joke also meant that he won’t win the Scudetto, but maybe he will, who knows? With this Roma side you can reach the top six with your eyes closed.
“I didn’t say what I said to belittle Roma, but the opposite. Years ago, I would have said that Mourinho is a luxury for Roma, now I say that Roma is a luxury for Mourinho.
Di Canio expects the viral audio to reach Mourinho, but feels that one of the most decorated trainers in the history of football will care little.
“He has big shoulders, he will make his jokes,” he said of the Portuguese. “He will say ‘Di Canio who? The one sacked from Sunderland after five days?’ He won’t give a damn about it.”