LONDON • Just days into the new English Premier League season, and Jose Mourinho has already found himself right smack in the middle of a big controversy.
The outspoken Chelsea manager appears to have bitten off more than he could chew, after he publicly criticised his medical staff - in particular team doctor Eva Carneiro and physiotherapist Jon Fearn - for their actions during stoppage time of the Blues' 2-2 home draw with Swansea last Saturday.
The Portuguese said that Carneiro and Fearn had been "impulsive and naive" for running onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, forcing the Belgian to leave the pitch and leaving Chelsea - who had already lost goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to a red card - with just nine players and vulnerable to Swansea's attack.
British media then reported that Carneiro's responsibilities at Chelsea would be scaled back. While she remains the Blues' first-team doctor and will continue working with the squad from their training base at Cobham, she is set to lose her place on the bench for competitive matches and is barred from training sessions. Fearn also had his responsibilities downgraded and he, too, will no longer be on the bench.
Mourinho's actions have received widespread criticism, and there are reports that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is furious at the Portuguese creating such a furore by criticising a senior employee publicly.
JUST DOING HER JOB
It is a huge concern that Dr Carneiro has been subjected to unprecedented media scrutiny and a change in her professional role, merely because she adhered to her code of professional conduct and did her job properly.
PREMIER LEAGUE DOCTORS' GROUP in a statement
The Premier League Doctors' Group also said in a statement: "Removing Dr Eva Carneiro from the Chelsea team bench for their next match is unjust in the extreme.
DUE AN APOLOGY
The medical staff deserve a public apology and I'm very disappointed the club haven't come out and done something to support them.
PETER BRUKNER, Liverpool FC's former head of sports science
"In the publicised incident against Swansea, the Chelsea medical staff were clearly summoned on to the field of play by the match referee to attend to a player. A refusal to run onto the pitch would have breached the duty of care required of the medical team to their patient.
"It is a huge concern that Dr Carneiro has been subjected to unprecedented media scrutiny and a change in her professional role, merely because she adhered to her code of professional conduct and did her job properly."
The body pledged that Carneiro, who joined Chelsea in 2009 and was the first woman to hold the team doctor role in the EPL, had its "universal and total support".
Carneiro - born in Gibraltar to a Spanish father and English mother - had thanked people for their support in the aftermath, writing in a Facebook post last Sunday: "I would like to thank the general public for their overwhelming support. Really very much appreciated."
However, that reportedly incensed Mourinho further, as he demands total loyalty and privacy from his inner circle and it has long been clear at Chelsea that members of the backroom staff are to be seen and not heard.
Employees can have Facebook and Twitter accounts but they must not, for example, post criticisms of the club or the game's governing bodies. Carneiro's public Facebook post did not transgress the guidelines, and yet it succeeded in crossing a line with Mourinho.
Support for Carneiro has been pouring in from many other quarters. Liverpool FC's former head of sports science Peter Brukner, now a doctor with the Australian cricket team touring England, told Talksport radio that Mourinho's actions were "absolutely appalling".
"Maybe he should be criticising his player for staying down, rather than the medical staff," he added.
"The medical staff deserve a public apology and I'm very disappointed the club haven't come out and done something to support them."
Football Association director and former England women's footballer Kelly Simmons expressed hope that the row would not deter women from working in football.
"We want to see more women in all roles in football so, hopefully, what's happened in the last 48 hours won't put off young women wanting to work in what is a fantastic industry," said Simmons.
Chelsea and Mourinho are yet to comment on reports that Carneiro's role has changed, but the manager is expected to address the media at his weekly press conference today.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN