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Conte wishes he'd played alongside Ibrahimovic & snubs Mourinho's mind games

7:30 am AEST 15/4/17
Ibrahimovic Conte
The Blues boss and the Manchester United forward both played for Juventus but missed playing with each other by a matter of months

Antonio Conte has admitted that he would have loved to play with Zlatan Ibrahimovic after seeing him perform brilliantly with Manchester United

Ibra made a €16 million move from Ajax to Juventus in August 2004, with Conte having retired from football after a long spell as the captain of the Turin giants just two months earlier. 

Conte: Ibra has never been better

The Swede missed United's 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup, but Chelsea will have to face him in the Premier League on Sunday and Conte spoke of his sadness at not having been able to play alongside the striker. 

"When Zlatan arrived at Juventus, I finished my career in 2004," Conte told a news conference at Cobham Training Ground. "It was a pity because I'd like to have played with him.”

Conte and Mourinho have been involved in heated discussions on the touchline in each of their last two matches against each other, with the ex-Italy coach having taken over from Mourinho as manager at Stamford Bridge . 

After United's last defeat at Chelsea, Mourinho proclaimed that "Judas is still number one" after a small section of the Stamford Bridge crowd turned on their former boss. Conte, meanwhile, believes that Mourinho does play mind-games, but that it is to be expected as managers at the top of the game seek to gain every advantage. 

“I think every coach has to work to prepare the team – tactically and physically, and psychologically – because when there are these types of games it's important to prepare your team to face every situation. Tactical, physicial, the mentality to be ready. This is our task.

“Look, many coaches try to manipulate and try to [get into] your thoughts, but that's not important for me. It's important to continue to work and have our idea of football.

“My expectations are it will be a tough game. I think, when I talk about tough games, I involve tactical aspects, physical aspects, mental aspects... not only one aspect. It's not right to concentrate on only one of these aspects.

"There are many great players with great techniques, but that is not enough. You must have a good impact physically and technically, and have the right mentality too.”

Conte: PL success nothing to do with no Europe

However, Conte admits that he has made a conscious effort not to respond to Mourinho's jibes as his side sit top of the Premier League with only seven games remaining. 

“I don't like it. I prefer to be more focused on my team. If you ask me if I like it or not, I don't. I'd prefer to be focused on my team and the game during the match, so I can find the right solution if my team is in difficulty.”