The confirmation of Antonio Conte’s arrival at Stamford Bridge following Euro 2016 came as no great shock to anyone with an interest in world football. Conte has been appointed Head Coach on a 3-year deal after earlier confirming his departure as coach of the Italian national team.
Who is Antonio Conte? Anyone who watched Italian football on Channel 4 during the early 90’s will be familiar with Conte the player, a trophy-laden 13 years with Juventus saw Conte win just about everything there was to win domestically and on the European stage. A relatively diminutive figure standing at 5 feet 8 inches was not a limiting factor, his combative, box-to-box style was typical of the role of an enforcer – think Ramires but with talent and a better dress sense.
The qualities shown during his playing career meant he was earmarked for management long before he hung up his boots. Leadership and tactical intelligence were top of those qualities sighted very early on and seemed a natural progression.
Conte’s first steps into management did not live up to the expectation of those that were convinced of his potential during his playing days, sacked from his first post at Serie B side Arezzo after just three short months.
Positions at Bari, Atalanta and Sienna brought success and failure in equal measures before finally being appointed the manager of Juventus – a position he had coveted since the end of his playing career. At the ‘Bianconeri’, Conte would flourish and three successive Serie A titles from 2011 -2014 were delivered and Conte’s reputation was on the rise and standing up to expectation.
In August 2014, Conte was appointed Italy manager for the two years up to and including Euro 2016 and successful qualification for the tournament will see Conte oversee before moving on to Chelsea.
Comparisons on his management style are already being made and names cropping up seem to point to a tough, uncompromising man with an attention to detail that is absolute, the ‘Italian Mourinho’ perhaps? Quite a contrast to the man in the chair at the moment, Hiddink was brought in to restore harmony and stabilise the club by putting out the fires that had been stoked by his predecessor. One thing that’s for certain is that anybody not on board with Conte’s way of working won’t stand a chance and he won’t be afraid of bruising any over-inflated ego in his pursuit of success – traits that were fundamental to his success as a player. His ruthlessness is undeniable and further comparisons to managerial greats have been made in the shape of Sir Alex Ferguson. During his first season at Juventus, Carlos Tevez was asked what differences existed between Sir Alex Ferguson and Antonio Conte, Tevez responded with “Not many”.
“Not many” – Carlos Tevez’ response to being asked what differences existed between Sir Alex Ferguson and Antonio Conte
For all the talk and debate over tactics, formations, and style of management, there is no escaping the fact that the job facing Conte is a big one. Arguably a team in transition with a contradiction of an ageing squad and enough youth players to fill four teams. There will also be a number of players that are already dead men walking, John Terry top of that list, another contract has not been forthcoming and that has probably had a lot to do with this appointment of Conte. Players that are in the winter of their careers won’t be welcome, the new man will want a team built in his image – hungry and hell bent on winning. No compromises.
The blank cheque Abramovich provides will appeal to Conte and marquee signings are to be expected, it will take time, though, those having their noses put out of joint won’t make Conte lose too much sleep nor will it make him stray from his principles that have led him to this job. This is a man used to success and stands up to anybody that gets in the way of that.