The Murdoch press last week settled 16 more phone hacking claims, most notably that of boxer Frank Bruno. Most were related both to the now defunct Screws and the still very much extant Sun, and all no doubt involved the payment of serious amounts of both damages, and legal costs. So the last thing Rebekah Brooks and her pals on the 13th floor of the Baby Shard bunker need right now is another phone hacking accusation.
Come on Neil, I know it's you
But that is exactly what they got today during a press conference given by under-fire Manchester United manager José Mourinho, when a representative of the Italian press asked “In the English press today, it says that Zinedine Zidane called you to assure you that he didn’t want your position. Is that true?”
Setúbal’s most famous son did not miss a beat. “Ask the guy behind you, because he was the one that wrote it … just behind you … just the guy there”. Mourinho was gesticulating at Neil Custis of the Sun. “Instead of asking me” he added. Custis shrugged. “He’s written it - you need to ask him” emphasised the Man U boss. Then he dropped the bomb.
“He put the bug on my telephone, so why don’t you ask him?” Awkward expressions all round. But let’s look at Custis’ article, and see what gives Mourinho cause for suspicion.
Under the headline “Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho fears for future after phone call from Zinedine Zidane … France and Real Madrid legend was so worried Mourinho may think he was plotting behind his back that he got in touch” we read “JOSE MOURINHO is resigned to his fate at Manchester United - after getting a call from Zinedine Zidane”. There is more in the same vein.
“But he was so worried Mourinho may think he was plotting behind his back that he got in touch … Former Real Madrid boss Zizou revealed all that happened was his representatives asked if he would be interested in the job … Yet it left Mourinho convinced that Old Trafford chiefs have sounded out Zidane’s agents and are making contingency plans for his departure”. Ri-i-i-ight. So how did Custis come by this information?
Mourinho is hinting rather strongly that it didn’t come from him. So there could only have been one source - Zidane, or maybe his representative. But look at Custis’ wording: “Former Real Madrid boss Zizou revealed all that happened was his representatives asked if he would be interested in the job”. Like he might say in a voice message, perhaps?
The problem for the Super Soaraway Currant Bun is that this smells like phone hacking. The material in the article looks as if it may have come from a voice mail tap. And Mourinho’s future at Old Trafford is one of those hot topics where the press are all angling for leads, scraps of news, straws in the wind, anything to get the jump on the competition.
It is that kind of fevered scrabbling for news that led the red-tops, and perhaps others, to start hacking phones all those years ago. And unless Neil Custis can show he got the information about Zidane’s phone call legitimately, he could be in deep shit.
Old habits die hard. Some then come back to life. The explanation will be interesting.
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