Andre Pirlo explains in his book “I think therefore I play”, Antonio Conte just needed one speech to catch the attention of the Juventus squad when appointed in 2011:
“This squad, dear boys, is coming off two consecutive seventh-place finishes. It’s crazy. It’s shocking. I am not here for this, so it’s time to stop being so crap.’”
He had fire running through his veins and he moved like a viper, Pirlo explains.
Arguably he could use the very same speech on the Chelsea squad.
Antonio Conte certainly ticks all the boxes if we consider his outstanding achievements at Juventus, the club he served with distinction as a player and manager and the fact that since taking the Italy job he has lost only one match in 18 months. He has the force of personality to build on the restoration work that Guus Hiddink has impressively set about at Stamford Bridge.
Conte has won 5 Serie A titles a Champions League and a UEFA cup at Juventus as a combative midfield player. He will have instant credibility amongst this Chelsea squad.
Juventus won Serie A without losing a single game in Conte’s first season 2012 and he made it three successive scudetto’s before he resigned in 2014. He won 3 titles with an unbeaten run of 49 games and a record points haul in Italian football.
“When Conte speaks, his words assault you,” Pirlo said. “They crash through the doors of your mind. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said: ‘Hell, Conte said something really spot-on again today.’”
“You’re only as good as your last game, your last training session. Conte wants you to sweat. “Eat grass” was the maxim at Juventus. He expects you to cover every blade and make the same sacrifices he did as a player. Fail to do that and you’re out.”
“The doors to [Italy’s training base in] Coverciano are like the revolving ones in your hotel,” Conte likes to tell members of the Italy squad. “They can send you home just as fast they brought you in.”
As Juventus entered the final stretch in his first season in charge, he told his players that if Milan wanted to dislodge them, “they will have to sh*t blood.” Pirlo explains.
“If I had to go to war, I would take Conte with me,” Arturo Vidal has said.
Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez likened working with him to going to “the university of football.”
Tevez has said “not many differences between Fergie and Conte”
Conte has proven to be tactically adept, he employed 4-2-4 in his early managerial career at Siena. Whilst at Juventus he deployed a 3-5-2. In his role as Italy manager he will have an intricate knowledge of European players and possible transfer targets. He has been learning English for over a year so no doubt is fully prepared for his West London challenge.
Arturo Vidal has stated he would reconsider working with his ex-manager in London if the opportunity arose. Conte would also probably be in pole position to land Paul Pogba if he chooses to leave Juventus. With such high profile players so complimentary, attracting talent will not be a problem. In addition London will probably entice a Paul Pogba over second stint in Manchester.
In 152 games Conte had a 67% win rate which ranks with any of Jose Mourinho’s statistics.
Pirlo recites a story about Gigi Buffon arriving one minute late for a team meeting. Conte lambasted him in front of the entire squad making it crystal clear there are no favours or excuses on the grounds of your playing reputation. Everybody is treated equally and you are judged only on your last performance or your last training session.
Conte is not averse to using older more mature defenders in Italy, he once said “There is no young and old only success and failure”, so he may yet choose to retain John Terry.
Signing a relatively unproven Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba he has an eye for latent talent and assembled a great team on a very tight budget, adding Carlos Tevez again very cheaply.
Conte will make Chelsea harder to beat and Arturo Vidal is his archetypal player, hard working, industrious with an excellent work ethic with a goal threat. He will also have the nous and ability to get the best out of Eden Hazard (providing Hazard stays). Conte shared the Juventus captaincy with Alessandro Del Piero in his playing days so knows and recognises how to work with exceptional talent.
Is Conte the man to take Chelsea to the title next season? The EPL Odd Comparisons will be going into overdrive now with the news of a new manager. The fact is that Conte is exactly the type of manager Chelsea need, a disciplinarian with no time for ego’s or primadonna’s. He will also probably be given breathing space given the number of managers that Chelsea have employed in quick succession. Conte tolerates no complacency and it bodes very well for Chelsea, they will be resurgent, in the aesthetically pleasing style Abramovich has hankered after for some time.