Former England full-back Paul Parker has launched a scathing attack on Jose Mourinho after the Chelsea manager issued a veiled criticism of Graeme Le Saux on Monday.
Mourinho insisted that, despite increased security fears, all of his players had been happy to travel to Israel for the Champions League clash with Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
Le Saux, who was critical of Mourinho's treatment of club doctor Eva Carneiro earlier this season, refused to travel to face Hapoel Tel Aviv a month after the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, and Mourinho this week claimed he "didn't have a Graeme Le Saux" to contend with.
Parker, who briefly played for Chelsea in 1997, wrote in his Eurosport column: "Jose Mourinho just can't help himself, can he? Graeme Le Saux makes some valid criticisms of Chelsea after their worst start to a season in 20 years, and Mourinho just has to respond.
"The fact that he does so with a cheap jibe about Le Saux being fearful of an away match in Israel a decade ago says it all. It's horrible to see.
"Mourinho had actually gone out of the spotlight a little bit in the last few weeks, and there was a part of me that wondered if he'd finally realised that silence is golden, and that a manager can act with dignity and respect. Obviously, that was a pipe dream."
Referencing an incident in which, during his time in charge at Real Madrid, Mourinho poked then Barcelona assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye during a Clasico match in 2011, Parker added: "But what else would you expect of Mourinho? What else would you expect of a man who stayed safely behind one of his colleagues during a touchline row, but reached around and poked opposition coach Tito Vilanova in the eye ... and later tried to justify it?
"That incident has always summed him up, to me; he's like the kid at school who watches a playground fight from a safe distance, then sidles up quickly to kick one of the fighters in the stomach when he's sprawled on the floor.
"Here he is again with these Le Saux comments, going backwards, digging up nonsense.
"He's let himself down as a manager, and as a man.
"Top managers aren't petty, they're magnanimous, and if he ever wants to be regarded as a true giant of the game he needs to change.
"Apart from anything else it actually hurts the club. Chelsea fans love them, but they're hated by everyone else - they're never anybody's second team, and that will restrict their growth around the world until things change. And that means until Mourinho changes his ways or leaves."