A match made in heaven or hell?
When the appointment was made, most would have immediately thought that Inter Milan would be ready to overthrow Juventus’s Serie A dominance and challenge them for the Scudetto. Likewise, many people thought Napoli under Ancelotti could push Juventus the way Sarri’s Napoli pushed Juventus but that wasn’t the case. The past eight seasons in Italy have been dominated by a Juventus side that has won the title in each of those 8 campaigns (much like Germany & France) and Inter have been among those simply unable to keep pace. Sarri’s Napoli the only side truly coming closer than the rest. Now as a neutral I would lean more to the cautiously optimistic side on this appointment. On the face of it, it seems like a match made in heaven and theres very much reason for Interisti to be excited. But as we’ve seen in football, nothing is certain. Juventus seemed certain to challenge the UCL with Ronaldo in their ranks but exited at the same stage to an Ajax side that came out of nowhere to surprise teams this season. Things don’t always go according to plan in football, much like in life. However, Conte could very much breathe life into this Inter Milan side much like he did Chelsea, and like he did Juventus but the big question is whether it can be prolonged beyond a one season surge. There is a strong case to be made that the Nerazzurri have a depth of talent that is second only to Juventus as we see Napoli still punching above their weight consistently securing the runners up spot in Serie A. Juventus are still the huge favorites to go on to win another scudetto next season, and probably the next couple league titles after that. But Inter do have the pieces to for an upset if everything breaks right, starting with the appointment of a serial winner in the form of Antonio Conte.
Now, onto the man himself. Conte, 49, has been without a job since leaving Chelsea almost a year ago. It is reported that the former Chelsea & Juventus manager will receive around 11 million-a-year at the San Siro on top of an added bonus settlement from Chelsea who he had gone to court with and won the case.” The 49-year-old will start his new job with massive expectations after finding tremendous success with Juventus and Chelsea. Finally, it’s time to get back to it,” he began, referencing his season away from coaching. “I have many reasons to do so, perhaps even too many and just as many challenges are ahead of me.” But I can’t wait. A club that’s not for everyone, with its fans who will be wondering, why me exactly? “Because we share the same ambitions, fearlessness, hunger and determination. Now it’s my turn. I’m here, Inter.”
Conte spent most of his managerial career in Italy, starting with Sienna as an assistant manager in 2005. He spent two seasons in Arezzo followed by a season at Bari and Atalanta before returning to manage Sienna in 2010. He won three Serie A titles with Juventus, winning the Serie A Coach of the Year on three occasions and leading a not so star studded Italy side to punch above their weight reaching the quarterfinals at the UEFA Euro 2016. Following that he ended up at Chelsea where he won the Premier League and FA Cup with Chelsea during his two years in the Premier League. However, that stint ended in flames as he fell out with club management in the subsequent season. Conte’s blend of touchline passion and winning tactics made him hugely popular with the majority of Chelsea supporters, but his relationship with the board became damaged beyond repair, highlighted by his repeated public and private complaints about transfer policy. His past with Juve will, of course, be a factor both Juventus and Inter fans raise and the man himself accepts that it will take some work to win both sets of fans over, but he insists he is the right man to lead it because he shares its “fearlessness.” Conte will add a ton of pressure and excitement to the Derby d’Italia, one of the biggest rivalries in Serie A. A large section of Juventus fans are already calling for his star in the club stadium to be removed. In all likelihood, Conte will not see much courtesy and respect when he returns to the Allianz Stadium on the opposing bench.
“We need to have the same ambition, the same hunger, the same determination, the same enthusiasm to bring Inter back to winning ways, back to where it deserves to be,” he said in a press release. “What I ask for is a sense of belonging because I think this is important if you want to achieve ambitious targets. Given that we are Inter, we need to set ambitious targets.” “I’m sure that Antonio Conte is one of the best coaches out there,” said Inter president Steven Zhang. “I’m certain that he’ll help us achieve our objective and fulfil our mission, one which has always remained the same: to make this club one of the best in the world again.” Inter have won 18 Scudetto and the Coppa Italia seven times but have struggled since winning a Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010. Their last major title was the Coppa Italia in 2011 and they missed out on the Champions League for six consecutive seasons before returning to the competition under Luciano Spalletti last season and this coming season before he was dismissed for the Antonio Conte. Inter snatched fourth place, equal on points with Atalanta, but behind the side from Bergamo on head-to-head, to edge city rival’s AC Milan by just one point. Inter will be hoping that Conte will have the same effect on them as he did on Juventus and Chelsea sparking success in his first league campaigns. Conte will also be reunited with highly regarded former Juventus chief executive Beppe Marotta. The Turin side had finished seventh for the two previous seasons before Conte arrived in 2011 before they went on the begin their period of dominance in Italian football so Conte will always be credited as a catalyst to that.
Tactically with Antonio Conte favoring a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 system often, the arrival of Diego Godin as a senior mentor to replace Miranda seems the perfect compliment to Milan Škriniar & Stefan De Vrij. Samir Handanović showed this season that hes still arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the Serie A if not the best in the league. So, defensively there isn’t much for Conte to tinker with except maybe a few depth type signings. Marcelo Brozović is maybe the only midfielder whose place should be secure for next season, with Radja Nainggolan & Matías Vecino’s form being up & down and the team has to find some reliable creators to feed the goal scorers. But the pieces for the title contention puzzle are there, they just need some re-fiddling and perhaps a few corner pieces to settle the whole thing.
Rumours around the likes of Ivan Rakitić and Filipe Luís and Alexis Sanchez additions have been buzzing around in the media ever since the Conte rumours began. Now, his first major task will of course be handling the Icardi situation. Which won’t be an easy decision despite all the drama the Icardi’s have brought to Inter Milan as an organization. If there’s one trait that Conte has embodied in his managerial tenures, it’s that he does not mesh well with player egos. Whether or not he feels the relationship with Inter can be repaired or whether he chooses to move the Argentine on is yet to be seen with many media outlets reporting that Romelu Lukaku & Edin Džeko are his preferred targets to replace the mercurial forward.
Conte is not known as a player’s manager. Conte’s methods were vividly described in the autobiography of former Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who played under him at Juventus. Pirlo said that Conte would throw bottles of fizzy mineral water against dressing-room walls in fits of rage and said that his rants “crash through the doors of your mind, often quite violently, and settle deep within you”. So, if theres anyone who could deal with Icardi aside from Diego Simeone, Antonio Conte seems the right man for the task. However, as we saw with his treatment of Diego Costa during his Chelsea spell, its not always for the best. As an X’s and O’s manager, Conte is one of the best in the world. What Conte does on the field at Inter will surely be interesting. But what will be even more important is whether he is able infuse a talented but relatively underachieving side with enough elite quality through the transfer market to assemble a roster capable of overtaking Juventus.
Whether or not the Inter contingent respond well to his style will be the main question for the club this season. Going forward, whether Conte finds in Milan a home in which he feels comfortable sticking around at for a good while, long enough to really build something lasting for this huge but rudderless ship, will likely determine if Inter will be successful in their attempt to become champions of Italy any time soon. For the sake of a title race in Serie A I would hope this appointment and subsequent changes at Inter play out in a favorable manner like what we saw happen to Liverpool this year in the premier league. Conte’s managed to win some sort of silverware in the first year at every club hes managed so Interisti will be hoping for more of the same. Antonio Conte was the first manager to win 30 PL games in a single season, the first manager to complete a league double v Pep Guardiola and the first manage to beat Jose Mourinho in an English domestic cup final; so as pessimistic I am about any club actually challenging Juventus, he should prove to be a worthy contender if anything. Juventus built on the foundation Conte laid, and they are now enjoying the most overpowering era of dominance Italy has ever seen. Now Conte takes over at Juventus’s hated rival and has a chance to topple the empire and cement his legacy as one of the greatest coaches in Italian soccer history.
Written by: RudeBoyFutbol’s Tapiwa Muza follow him on twitter.
Inter announcement: https://twitter.com/Inter_en/status/1134308519962972161?s=09
Transfermarkt profile: https://www.transfermarkt.com/antonio-conte/erfolge/trainer/3517