Post-Mourinho era at Chelsea overshadows title tilts

Jose Mourinho’s abrupt departure from Chelsea has put the crisis-torn champions’ clash with Sunderland on Saturday firmly in the spotlight on a weekend that would otherwise have been dominated by Premier League title tilts.

Mourinho will be gone but not forgotten at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea’s players and fans get the chance to respond to the polarising Portuguese coach’s sacking.

Dismissed on Thursday just days after a 2-1 defeat at Leicester left the Blues languishing one point above the relegation zone, Mourinho had apparently lost the support of a significant section of the Chelsea squad.

Suggestions that several players, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic reportedly among them, had grown unhappy as a result of feeling the lash of Mourinho’s acerbic tongue were substantiated by Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo’s talk of “palpable discord between the manager and players”.

Mourinho had claimed after the Leicester loss that he had been “betrayed” by his players and, with that in mind, it will be fascinating to see how Chelsea’s underachieving stars perform now.

There will be also be plenty of focus on the Stamford Bridge stands, where Chelsea’s fans had remained loyal to Mourinho right until the bitter end.

Even at Leicester they were chanting his name and their reaction during the Sunderland game will show whether Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s move has the support of the masses.

Abramovich was said to be keen to secure an interim replacement for Mourinho in time for Sunderland, with Dutchman Guus Hiddink — who has already successfully performed the same role at Chelsea for three months in 2009 — high on his shortlist.

But regardless of who is in charge this weekend, Chelsea can ill-afford a 10th league defeat of the season, especially against a Sunderland side only three points behind them, as the west Londoners aim to climb away from the relegation zone.

“I cannot explain why consistency has been so difficult to achieve. I don’t know what happened to us against Leicester,” Matic said.

“In the game against Porto, a very good team, we played very well, we scored two goals and created chances, but we were like another team on the pitch against Leicester.”

Mourinho’s exit has overshadowed a big weekend in the title race as second-placed Arsenal host third-placed Manchester City on Monday, while surprise leaders Leicester travel to Everton on Saturday.

Arsenal are two points behind Leicester and one ahead of City and a victory over Manuel Pellegrini’s side would be the perfect boost heading into the busy Christmas programme.

The Gunners’ chances of beating City would be greatly improved if Chile forward Alexis Sanchez is fit to feature after a hamstring injury and boss Arsene Wenger is cautiously optimistic.

“Maybe there is a slight chance for Alexis to be in the squad again, but it is too early to be sure about it,” Wenger said.

City seem more likely to have a key figure back in time for the Emirates Stadium showdown after Argentina striker Sergio Aguero, who has missed the last four games in all competitions, returned to full training on Wednesday following a heel problem.

Aguero’s return would be timely for City boss Manuel Pellegrini, who once again had to endure speculation this week that Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola is being lined up to replace him at the end of the season.

Guardiola has long been a target for Chelsea and has also been linked with fourth-placed Manchester United, whose manager Louis van Gaal desperately needs a win against struggling Norwich on Saturday to silence the critics of his conservative tactics and keep pace with the leaders.

But, with just one defeat from 16 league matches, Everton manager Roberto Martinez insists overhauling Leicester will be easier said than done for all their title rivals.

“Leicester deserve to be top of the league,” Martinez said. “I think Claudio Ranieri deserves all the credit for developing the belief in that team.

“Of course they are title contenders. I don’t see why they shouldn’t be. It’s not because they are top of the league, it’s because they’ve been so competitive in every game.”

Fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated)


Chelsea v Sunderland, Everton v Leicester, Manchester United v Norwich, Southampton v Tottenham, Stoke v Crystal Palace, West Brom v Bournemouth, Newcastle v Aston Villa (1730 GMT)


Watford v Liverpool (1330 GMT), Swansea v West Ham (1600 GMT)


Arsenal v Manchester City (2000 GMT)

Photo Credits : AFP

Mourinho all but throws in Premier League title towel

Jose Mourinho admits Chelsea’s hopes of defending their Premier League title have all but disappeared.

The 3-1 home defeat to Southampton left Mourinho’s side in 16th place and trailing leaders Manchester City by ten points just eight games into the new campaign.

The defeat increased the pressure on the Blues manager, who insists he has no intention of walking away from Stamford Bridge.

But the Portuguese conceded his side’s most realistic target for the season is now to finish in the top four –- with top spot already looking beyond them –- and called for stability as the club goes through its most difficult spell in years.

Mourinho said: “Three months ago we were on the bus showing off the cups so I think it is time for all of us to be together now at the bottom of the league.

“And I think in December, January, February we are top four. To be champions would be very, very difficult.

“We are ten points from Manchester City and we could be 11 points behind Manchester United tomorrow. In football it is not impossible but it is very difficult.

“But top four is completely… not easy, but completely do-able.

“When you are in such a bad season after such a bad start, if you finish top four at the end of the season it’s because you kept a balance in a difficult season.

“So, for me, everything is clear. I cannot say more than this. I’ve been in football for a long time.”

Mourinho is confident he still has the backing of the Chelsea squad, but he admitted he understood the reaction of the home supporters who booed the decision to withdraw Willian midway through the second half.

The manager added: “Do the players trust me and feel I am the man for the job? This week we spoke about it and the answer was undoubtful.

“The supporters, when they booed today, the Willian decision, I’d have done the same as them if I didn’t know Willian was ill and vomiting in the dressing room at half-time.

“The doctor told me it would be difficult for him to carry on. The fans didn’t know what was going on.

“If they have some negative reaction, I’d do the same because the result wasn’t what we wanted.”

– No Matic humiliation –

Mourinho also insisted he had not intended to risk humiliating Nemanja Matic when he withdrew the midfielder just 28 minutes after introducing him as a half-time substitute.

He said: “It was not humiliating. I don’t do that to anyone in football or in life. It’s something that, if I do, I do without any intention. It was not the case.

“With the players, I live a situation that is not easy which is that I like them. I trust them. I know they are good players. But some of them are really in a difficult moment.

“Matic is one of them. He’s not playing well. He’s not sharp defensively and is making mistakes with the ball, not the best decisions.”

Willian put Chelsea ahead but Southampton leveled through Steven Davis and went on to claim victory through goals from Mane and Graziano Pelle.

Saints manager Ronald Koeman said: “It was a long time ago that we won an away game. This is one of the best players to get that first win away. But we have to keep working.

“We showed a great second half today, and it’s now an international break. We hope everyone comes back in good shape and we can try and play good football. That’s the key for us to win games.

“It was a difficult start this season, but the spirit of the team has stayed strong even after that difficult start. The changes needed time. Everyone understands that and, every week, we play better football.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Mourinho fires back at Benitez’s wife

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho fired back at comments from the wife of Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez, who said her husband is “tidying up” Mourinho “messes” once again.

Montserrat Seara told Le Region newspaper that her Spanish husband has had to clean up after Mourinho in three stops where he has followed the Portuguese coach, at Inter Milan and Chelsea as well as Real Madrid.

After Chelsea beat Barcelona 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 2-2 draw in regular time, Mourinho noted that only in the Inter Milan case did Benitez directly follow him into the job of guiding the squad.

“The lady is a bit confused,” Mourinho said, drawing laughs from reporters but noting for himself, “I am not laughing.”

Mourinho, now in his second stint guiding Chelsea, said that when Benitez did follow him at Inter, “in six months he destroyed the best team in Europe at the time.”

And Mourinho had some advice for Seara.

“She needs to occupy her time,” he said. “If she takes care of her husband’s diet, she will not have any time to talk about me.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Jose Mourinho almost ‘divorced’ wife for a Kenyan flame

When Chelsea FC manager Jose Mourinho visited Kenya in 2010, he is said to have fallen in love with a young Kenyan lady in Diani. Fast forward five years later and the lady in question Lelesit Silvana is opening up on what transpired between her and the then Real Madrid FC coach. According to one of her close family members – who spoke to Word Is and sought anonymity – Silvana was offered marriage by the self-proclaimed “Special One”.

The Portuguese, who has enjoyed an illustrious career in football management across Europe, is said to have allegedly committed himself to divorce his wife Matilde Faria for his new Kenyan flame. The source said that Silvana has since made several visits to Poland where they both met and had “fun and Mourinho was ready for anything”.

“He is so deeply in love with her. We have seen several email chats and witnessed uncountable night calls between them,” said our source who also availed to us exclusive travel receipts confirming visits to Europe. Silvana, who is currently dating a Kenyan-Somali, is said to be pondering her next move regarding the issue.

“When the right time comes, the whole world will know the whole truth,” she told us when reached for a comment.

During his holiday in Diani, Silvana sold Mourinho a Tanzanite bracelet worth Sh500,000, which she dutifully shipped to Poland. This reportedly helped make their trust stronger. Mourinho stayed at the prestigious Almanara Luxury Villas in Diani with his wife and two children, Jose Mario Mourinho Jr. and Matilde Mourinho.

-Word Is

Mourinho accuses PSG of unnecessary aggression

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho taunted Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday ahead of the teams’ Champions League last 16 second leg, accusing them of committing systematic fouls and producing sterile approach play.

PSG largely controlled the first leg in Paris, which ended 1-1, enjoying 54 percent of possession and registering 11 shots on goal to Chelsea’s one, but that one attempt yielded an away goal for Branislav Ivanovic that puts the London club in the driving seat ahead of Wednesday’s return leg.

Chelsea winger Eden Hazard was the victim of nine fouls at the Parc des Princes — a record for a Champions League match — and Mourinho said that the French champions’ approach had been too aggressive.

“I was surprised in that game because a team with fantastic players was the team with the record of fouls, was the team that was making foul after foul, was the team that stopped Hazard with fouls every time, was the team attacking the player in possession with two or three players with very aggressive actions,” Mourinho said.

“Even with players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a typical attacking player, he was coming back and tackling Hazard from behind to stop counter-attacks.

“I thought an English team would never be surprised by aggressivity because of the aggressivity we have in our country.

“During this season we’ve played teams from the Championship and League One in the cups, a team from League Two, I think, Shrewsbury (in the League Cup), but the most aggressive team was Paris Saint-Germain.

“For me it was a real surprise. With players of such quality, I was expecting more football.”

Mourinho also responded sarcastically when it was put to him by a French journalist at the eve-of-match press conference that PSG had dominated the first leg.

“It depends on your concept of football,” Mourinho replied.

“What is dominate? If it’s number of chances, yes, Paris had more chances than us. If dominate is to stop the opposition play, making foul after foul, then yes, they dominated.

“If dominate is to have the ball and move the ball without progression, yes they dominated. They dominated in everything except the result.”

– Matic fit to play –

PSG coach Laurent Blanc had used his own pre-match media conference to warn his players not to succumb to Chelsea striker Diego Costa’s “games”, but Mourinho refused to take the bait when he was asked for his reaction.

“I don’t want to know what he told me (said),” Mourinho said. “You can tell me, but I don’t answer.”

Apart from the injured John Mikel Obi, Chelsea will be at full-strength for the game at Stamford Bridge, with Mourinho revealing that midfield lynchpin Nemanja Matic is fit to start.

The Serbia international has missed two games through suspension and also injured his ankle during the celebrations that followed Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final.

“I told him we won two very important matches without him. So maybe he’s not so important,” Mourinho said with a smile.

“He was laughing. I said, ‘Why are you laughing?’ But yes, he’s very important for us. We did well without him, but we’re happy to have him back.

“He’s fit to play, but (has had) no football for a couple of weeks and no training because he was really injured. He’s going to play tomorrow in his normal position.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Mourinho wants fair deal from ref in League Cup final

Jose Mourinho turned the spotlight on League Cup final opponents Tottenham Hotspur on Friday by suggesting some of Mauricio Pochettino’s side are guilty of simulation.

Chelsea manager Mourinho has been infuriated by a succession of refereeing decisions this season, prompting him to claim there has been a campaign against his club.

The situation hit a new low as far as the Portuguese was concerned last weekend during the home draw with Burnley when Mourinho highlighted four key decisions that went against the Blues.

The performance of referee Martin Atkinson was widely criticised in the game, and Anthony Taylor will inevitably find himself under close scrutiny when he takes charge of the cup final.

But Mourinho said: “I don’t believe that anyone involved in this game doesn’t want to make his best. I don’t believe in any other thing.

“All three teams will go with the same ambition: to do very well.

“Hopefully, even the players who like to complicate things, hopefully even these players will try to make the final a big final.”

Asked to name the players concerned, he added: “The players who dive looking for fouls, for cards, the players who – not week after week – but almost every two or three matches are simulating and pretending aggressions.

“You know what I know. We are in the same industry in the same country. You know the names. You know what I know.”

Last weekend Tottenham striker Harry Kane was criticised by West Ham manager Sam Allardyce for the way he went down to win a late penalty.

Chelsea will be without Nemanja Matic for the trip to Wembley after they failed to get the midfielder’s red card overturned.

The Serb was sent off against Burnley after retaliating against an Ashley Barnes challenge but an appeal against the decision resulted only in the ban being reduced from three to two games.

Mourinho refused to give his views on the decision, but made it clear he was unhappy.

He said: “If I give you my views, it’s bad for me. I can’t give you my views because it’s bad for me.

“If I speak again about the Matic situation, I promise I will be in big trouble.”

The manager was also unhappy that an appeal for a penalty when Diego Costa went down against Burnley was ignored.

Mourinho has expressed his concern that the striker has not been treated fairly by match officials this season and admitted Costa must tread carefully.

The Portuguese said: “He has to be careful, but not with his behaviour.

“He has to be careful because of other players and, as a consequence, the way referees look at him. Not because of how he has played since arriving in England. He has done very well.”

But for all his concerns about the players on the pitch, Mourinho is convinced there will be no problems between the two benches and revealed his respect for Spurs manager Mourinho.

He said: “He’s a guy I respect and I know he respects me too. The same with his staff. Good people doing his work. We don’t have problems.

“It will be an easy job for the fourth official because, in between both benches, for sure peace and we will do our jobs.”

The final presents Mourinho and his players with the opportunity to win the first trophy of the manager’s second spell in charge at the club.

The competition marked Mourinho’s first success in his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge in 2005 – and he believes victory at Wembley can help his current side move to the next level.

Photo Credits : AFP

Chelsea boss Mourinho slams referee Atkinson after Matic sees red

Jose Mourinho blasted referee Martin Atkinson after a series of contentious decisions, including Nemanja Matic’s red card, saw Chelsea held to a shock 1-1 draw against struggling Burnley.

Matic saw red after reacting furiously to a challenge from Ashley Barnes, but Blues boss Mourinho felt the Burnley player should have been sent off for an earlier incident, and that his team should have had at least two penalties at Stamford Bridge.

To add to Mourinho’s angst, Chelsea lost their composure following the midfielder’s 70th-minute dismissal, with Ben Mee heading home an 81st-minute equaliser to cancel out Branislav Ivanovic’s 14th-minute opening goal.

It also ensured that Chelsea’s “Game for Equality”, in which they put forward a strong anti-racism message following Tuesday’s shocking incident on the Paris Metro, which saw a handful of their fans accused of racially abusing a black commuter, ended in more recriminations.

“This game had four crucial moments,” Mourinho said. “Minute 30, minute 33, minute 43, minute 69.”

The Portuguese was referring, in order, to a challenge from Barnes, a handball in the box from Michael Kightly, a shove from Michael Keane on Diego Costa in the area and then Matic’s red card.

“This is the story of the game,” Mourinho said. “You go through these moments and know exactly what happened in this game.

“Minute 69 has a big relation with minute 30 because normally the player, if I can call him a player, was involved in minute 30 and minute 31 should be in the shower.

“No minute 69 if the person in charge does it in a proper way in minute 30.”

Burnley boss Sean Dyche described that challenge as a “coming together”.

Barnes did appear to leave his studs in on Matic, but when it was put to Dyche that Mourinho had said his player should have been sent off for the earlier incident he was involved in, he responded with laughter.

“Involved in what, playing football?” Dyche said. “Have they anything else (to complain about)? Is the grass too short?”

When asked if Chelsea would appeal, Mourinho responded sarcastically.

“Have you ever seen Chelsea win an appeal? I don’t remember,” he said. “I prefer not to comment because if I comment I’m going to use some words.

“A couple of weeks ago when I was here in the press conference after the Liverpool game in the League Cup, I knew already it was going on and on and on, headlines saying ‘Diego (Costa) crimes’. Compare Diego’s ‘crimes’ with what happened today.”

But Dyche was keen to remind Mourinho that it was not just the referee’s decisions that swung the momentum back to Burnley.

“There was more to the game than that, thought we were excellent. I felt we deserved a point,” he said.

That was probably not true on the evidence of the first 69 minutes, as Chelsea were in full control.

It had seemed like they would be in for another easy home win early on, given the nature of the opening goal.

Juan Cuadrado fed Eden Hazard on the right, and the Belgian skipped through the defence before feeding Ivanovic to prod home.

Thereafter, Chelsea had plenty of play, but couldn’t force much beyond the penalty calls.

After the red card, Burnley aggressively pressed and got their reward when Mee headed in a corner.

“We want to attack the game,” Dyche said. “Whatever happens in a season, you don’t want to regret. We’ve had a go in every game bar Arsenal away (a 3-0 defeat in November).”

Burnley could even have won it, only for Danny Ings to blaze over having raced through on goal.

When asked about that, Dyche again laughed and said: “Let’s not get greedy”.

Mourinho wasn’t smiling though.

“Don’t make me laugh because I’m not in a mood to laugh,” he said.

Photo Credits : AFP

Mourinho says sorry for referee criticism

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has apologised for criticising referee Kevin Friend in the aftermath of his side’s 3-0 win over Watford in the FA Cup at the weekend.

Mourinho complained in a television interview that his side should have been awarded a penalty in the build-up to their second goal when Craig Cathcart appeared to handle the ball after blocking a shot from Diego Costa.

But Friend subsequently explained to Mourinho that he had played an advantage, which enabled Loic Remy to score moments later, and the Portuguese admitted that his criticism had been misplaced.

“I want to apologise for my earlier comments in some television (interviews). What the referee did was great refereeing,” said Mourinho.

“He saw that it was a penalty, he was going to give a penalty, but he saw the ball was going to Remy. And he waited a couple of seconds.

“He told me that if Remy didn’t control the ball well or the ball goes over the bar or the ball is lost, he would have given the penalty.

“I was complaining, but it was good refereeing by Kevin. I didn’t think it was a penalty — it was a penalty.”

Mourinho complained recently that his players were the victims of a “clear campaign” orchestrated by opposition coaches and the media following a spate of diving accusations.

Mourinho cries foul over Chelsea diving focus

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claimed that there is a “campaign” to get his players wrongly punished for diving following his side’s 1-1 Premier League draw at Southampton.

After Eden Hazard had cancelled out Sadio Mane’s opener for Southampton on Sunday, referee Anthony Taylor booked Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas after he went down under a challenge by Matthew Targett in the second half.

Television replays indicated that the official may have made a mistake, as Targett appeared to make contact with Fabregas after slipping, but Mourinho suggested that there was more to it than that.

He listed previous incidents when Chelsea players had been booked for perceived dives, including one involving Diego Costa against Burnley on the opening weekend of the season.

Diving had also been the topic of post-match conversation after a 2-0 home win against Hull City earlier this month, which saw England defender Gary Cahill topple to the turf in an eye-catching manner.

“Why was it not a penalty? Because the referee made a mistake,” Mourinho said. “People make mistakes — he made a mistake. A big mistake, but a mistake.

“I think it is the result of something that looks like a campaign. In the first match, Diego got a yellow card when it should have been a red card (for the defender) and a penalty at Burnley.

“A few months later, Fabregas gets a yellow card. The double punishment is unbelievable. You have a penalty and probably you win the game. You don’t get the penalty and you get a yellow card.

“We have had bad yellow cards for simulation. I am not saying all, but we are speaking about crucial decisions. For example, the game against Hull City — do you think the most important thing was Cahill or Filipe Luis almost with a broken leg?”

Chelsea’s Boxing day fixture had also featured a simulation controversy, with West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce having accused Branislav Ivanovic of going down too easily during his side’s 2-0 defeat.

On that occasion the officials punished neither side.

– ‘Stupid mistakes’ –

Asked who he thought was behind the “campaign”, Mourinho replied: “I don’t know, but after the game against West Ham — a good game, a normal game — (Enner) Valencia made a very bad dive and at the end of the game, Sam is speaking about Ivanovic. What is this? Why?

“It is not against me because I am not on the pitch, but against Chelsea, yes. Do you want me to tell you the two most important things that happened in my matches, in my opinion? Filipe Luis and Eden Hazard could be in hospital now with broken legs.”

The point kept Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table, three points ahead of Manchester City, who surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Burnley.

“Chelsea have been playing very well since the beginning of the season. We are top of the league because we deserve to be,” added Mourinho defiantly. “I am so happy with my players.”

Ronald Koeman, the Southampton manager, was also delighted, having seen his players defend for most of a second half that saw home midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin sent off late on for two bookable offences.

Southampton, who are in fourth place, had previously lost home fixtures against City and Manchester United, and the Dutchman was satisfied that his players had applied the lessons learnt the hard way from those defeats.

“One point against Chelsea is maybe three points against another opponent,” Koeman said.

“The difference was we played until the last second. We didn’t make stupid mistakes like we did against United and City.”

Koeman, who was a colleague of Mourinho’s at Barcelona when Louis van Gaal was coach, admitted the Fabregas incident could well have gone against his side.

“Maybe it’s a penalty. I don’t know,” he said. “If it’s a penalty they can be disappointed about that decision, but it’s part of football.”

Chelsea brush aside Tottenham in 3-0 victory

Didier Drogba inspired Chelsea to a win over Tottenham to maintain the Blues’ six-point lead at the top of the table.

Tottenham missed two good chances early on – Harry Kane hitting the bar then dragging a shot wide – and Chelsea went ahead when Eden Hazard finished sweetly following a one-two with Drogba.

The striker, who replaced the suspended Diego Costa, then netted with a low shot following a Hugo Lloris mistake.

Substitute Loic Remy completed the win with a smart finish from 12 yards. There was plenty to admire about Chelsea, who once again turned on the style for 10 first-half minutes to blow away their second-best opponents.

Tottenham, who are still without a win at Stamford Bridge since 1990, could not deal with the sublime skill of Hazard, the power and physicality of Drogba and the rampaging runs down the right from full-back Branislav Ivanovic.

Mourinho confirms Costa may return against United

Diego Costa, Ramires and John Mikel Obi could all return to the Chelsea squad for their Premier League clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, manager Jose Mourinho said.But striker Loic Remy is definitely out.

The three all missed Chelsea’s 6-0 Champions League club record win over Maribor on Tuesday, but Mourinho said they all have “a little chance” of playing against United, and he would decide after Saturday’s training session.

Costa, joint top scorer in the Premier League with nine goals, has missed the last two matches with a hamstring injury and then a virus, while Ramires has missed their last six games with a groin injury and Mikel the last two with a bad foot.

Remy, though, will be out for two to three weeks after injuring his groin scoring the opening goal of the win over Maribor at Stamford Bridge.

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Wenger says he has no regrets for pushing Mourinho

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says he does not regret shoving Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in a heated touchline spat.

The pair clashed after a challenge by Gary Cahill on Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez in Chelsea’s 2-0 home win.

“What is to regret after that? I wanted to go from A to B and somebody confronted me without any sign of welcome,” Wenger said.

“B was get to Sanchez to see if he was injured. Was it a push? A little one. You can see when I really try to push.”

Wenger and Mourinho were separated by fourth official Jon Moss at Stamford Bridge and, as referee Martin Atkinson dealt with the issue at the time, it is not expected the Football Association will take any further action.

Chelsea boss Mourinho said he wanted to “forget” about the incident with the Frenchman, and insisted he had done nothing wrong.

“It becomes heated because this is a big game, big clubs, big rivals, and important match for both teams. These conditions make a game of emotions,” he said.