Furious Mourinho hits back in Ranieri row

September 27, 2008

MILAN, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Inter Milan trainer Jose Mourinho blasted Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri's command of the English language on Saturday as he fended off criticism for getting his assistant to fill in for him at news conferences this week.

Ranieri, who was the manager of Chelsea before Mourinho started a successful three-year stint at the London club in 2004, joined the debate on Friday by saying coaches should speak to the media out of respect for fans.

"I studied Italian five hours a day for many months to be able to communicate with you journalists and you think that I lacked respect," the Portuguese was quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport's website (www.gazzetta.it) before Sunday's derby against AC Milan.

"Who is Ranieri to speak? After five years in England he had trouble saying good morning and good afternoon."

Mourinho also had a verbal exchange with Ranieri last month, when he compared the Juventus coach's record unfavourably with his own and said his rival might be too old to acquire a winning mentality.

He had kinder words for his former player Andriy Shevchenko, who is yet to find the net since returning to Milan after two disappointing seasons at Chelsea. ," Mourinho said.

"Here you can see at once that he has improved. I see him on TV and he seems a player who is returning to his great level," Mourinho said.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said Ronaldinho may get a slice of the action on Sunday but is not fit enough to play the whole derby.

"He's not in outstanding shape, the pace of his game is still low, but even so he is such a good player that he could be useful in a match like tomorrow's, certainly not for 90 minutes," Ancelotti told the club's in-house TV channel.

"I think he'll find the right condition within two weeks."

Ronaldinho and Shevchenko are vying for the place in Milan's starting lineup left vacant by Marco Borriello, who hurt his thigh after netting the opener in Wednesday's 2-1 win at Reggina.

But Ancelotti may decide to leave them both on the bench and move Brazil playmaker Kaka further forward in support of his in-form compatriot Alexandre Pato.