Antonio Conte was tipped to go into management right from his playing days. The Juventus and Italy midfielder was always too smart to rate himself as a great player. “I understood straight away that on the bench I had the kind of talent I lacked on the pitch,” he said.
“As a player, I could run, fight, be a threat in the box, sacrifice myself for the team, but that was it.” A product of the Italy’s fabled Coverciano coaching school, Conte has trained under the who’s who of football managers.
The Italian came to Juventus from Lecce at a very young age. Starting his career at the Turin side under the watchful eyes of Giovanni Trapattoni, he went on to be managed by Marcelo Lippi, Arrigo Sacchi and Carlo Ancelotti.
In Antonio Conte, the managers saw a leader capable of translating their ideas on the pitch. In spite of being an average footballer, Conte went on to captain the Juventus side boasting the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Edgar Davids.
The Italian’s journey to the Chelsea hot-seat has been anything but straightforward. His meandering journey in management has seen him manage clubs of different statures – leading sides like Siena to promotion from Serie B to Serie A, to winning the Serie A consecutively for three years with an under performing Juventus side that had finished 7th in the League, two years in a row before he joined, to leading an underwhelming Italian side to an impressive finish in the Euros, only to be knocked out by Germany on penalties – making him one of the most complete coaches around.
He was unveiled as Chelsea Head Coach in the summer of 2016 making Premier League a tussle between the most high profile coaches in the game. Although amidst the fanfare surrounding the Manchester coaches, Antonio Conte’s name flew under the radar.
All that changed very quickly with the Italian’s tactical masterstroke that saw Chelsea go on a 13 match winning streak, eventually claiming the Premier League title with a 3-man defence, for the first time since the first half of the 1990s. Such was the success of the move that following Conte, almost all the Premier League teams reverted to a 3-man defence at one point of the season or the other.
Antonio Conte is a tenacious man. He demands total control of his team right from the player’s diet to transfer business. The highly structured transfer system at Chelsea helmed by Michael Emenalo and Marina Granovskaia appears to have worked out a modus vivendi with the 47-year-old Italian.
Conte’s previous history of walking away from clubs where he did not get his way has been a cause for alarm for the Chelsea board desperate to hold on to the coach about whom Chelsea legend Frank Lampard is effusive in praise. ”
Antonio would be their most important signing — for me, he was their man of the season,” the former England international said in an interview.
In a transfer window that is proving to be increasingly frustrating for Chelsea, having only revealed backup goalkeeper Willy Caballero, Conte is reportedly fuming. Chelsea are set to make Antonio Conte the highest paid manager in their history with a £9.6m contract extension offer waiting on the table.
It is unlikely that the Italian will walk away. He is said to be in regular contact with Granovskaia, suitably assured that he would have a ready team waiting, at his disposal when the new season starts. Roman Abramovich is willing to back the Chelsea Head Coach who has exceeded expectations in his very first season delivering the League title.
In the wake of the Lukaku deal going awry, it remains to be seen whether Chelsea can deliver on their promise of adding quality reinforcements to the squad expected to compete on multiple fronts next season.
Conte had famously said on Juventus’ exit from the Champions League that you can not eat at a $100 restaurant with $10 in your pocket. It is up to Chelsea to prove that they are a $100 club if they want to hold on to the Italian.
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