Dimitar Berbatov says Jose Mourinho broke government guidelines to meet with Tanguy Ndombele because the manager is “impatient for football to return”.
The Tottenham boss was spotted on Hadley Common in Barnet with club-record signing Ndombele last week, despite government advice stating exercise outdoors can only be undertaken with one other person from your own household.
Mourinho had arranged a one-on-one session with Ndombele who has struggled for fitness since joining the club last summer, and senior club officials were not impressed with the manager’s actions.
However, Berbatov was not surprised by Mourinho’s instinct to “operate outside the box”, a trait which he believes has earned the Tottenham boss much success over the years.
“Jose Mourinho has admitted he was wrong to hold an informal training session with three Tottenham players on Hadley Common in north London,” Berbatov told Betfair.
“He did it because he is impatient for football to return, and I understand that, but he’s broken the social distancing rules and that’s not good. Footballers and managers are in an influential position in society and they need to set an example to their fans in this very difficult situation.
“I can’t say I was particularly surprised by Mourinho’s behaviour. He has always operated outside the box and that’s one of the reasons he’s been successful and fans love him. But this is different. Hopefully, although it was a mistake to hold this session on the common, Mourinho and his players were still keeping a safe distance from each other.
“I can see why Mourinho would be desperate to get back to work. Everyone in football wants the game to return as soon as possible. And when you hear that other leagues are already setting a date for when they will resume, then you become even more impatient to get back. But public health comes first.
“For players, sitting at home, trying to stay fit, is difficult because they want to be as sharp as possible when the season restarts. Footballers are in a fortunate position, though, compared to most people. Many players live in large houses with gardens so they can improvise training routines at home, with weights for example, but it’s not the same and it isn’t easy to stay focused.”
Mourinho later stopped short of an apology, but urged everyone to follow the official advice “in order to support our heroes in the NHS and save lives”.