He’s one of the most formidable characters in global football – a superstar and a tyrant. And Antonio Conte seems to be heading back to the Premier League soon.
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
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Toda, getting to know Antonio Conte.
Football: a funny old game, as someone once said.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – just when it looked as though he’d be sacked – pulled off a 3–0 win over Tottenham at the weekend. Job saved.
For now, at least. But his opponent – the Spurs boss, Nuno Espirito Santo, wasn’t so lucky. He was given the boot.
And the man who is heavily linked with replacing them both?
Premier League fans were given a glimpse into the way Conte operates during his time with Chelsea. But in fact, there’s a lot more to this fascinating character than his stint in England.
Let’s get to know him a bit better.
Finishing seventh isn’t too bad for a lot of clubs.
But for Juventus – the most highly decorated team in Italian football history – it simply won’t do.
So when that happened in 2011, Juve looked to their former captain to turn things around.
Antonio Conte didn’t have much experience as a manager but they trusted that the same qualities that he showed on the pitch – hard work, determination and leadership – would transfer to the touchline.
No-one really expected a novice boss to take a team of mostly average players to a league title in his first year… yet that’s what he did. And in the league they didn’t lose a single game.
He won the title again the following season, and again in the one after with 102 points, a record in Serie A.
How did he do it?
In a word, ruthlessness.
He demands maximum effort from his players at all times and he point-blank refuses to work with those who don’t meet his standards of effort and professionalism.
“If a player doesn’t do what you ask him to do for the team… he’s out. I always talk about education and respect. And I demand this. I give this but I demand this. And er… if someone hasn’t the good attitude in the training session or the good behaviours in different circumstances, yeah I prefer to kill him. And to earn… yeah I prefer to kill him.”Sky Sports
To say his system is well organised would be the understatement of the year. And he’s addicted to winning. He named his daughter Vittoria, the Italian word for victory.
And he revitalises players. Where others had failed, he got the most from Romelu Lukaku at Inter after the striker had flopped at Manchester United.
“You know when I went to Italy, under the guidance of Antonio Conte, I learned really what it took to just break that barrier.”Sky Sports
Conte won the Premier League title with Chelsea in his first season in England.
And Juve’s nine-year title-winning run that he started? He was the one to end it, last year with Inter.
But Antonio Conte’s brilliance comes with a price.
“Without him… obviously this wouldn’t have happened, and he clearly knows what he’s doing and I look forward to next season.”
“I never thought a manager would top Mourinho for me, but in one season, he’s already done it. I love his passion, I think he’s perfect for the players, I think he’s perfect for the team and I wanna see him stay here for a very long time.”Serie A
Except Conte never stays for a very long time. Anywhere.
His longest spell in charge was his three seasons at Juve, but it came to an end when he resigned from his supposedly beloved club, leaving them in the lurch on the second day of pre-season training.
Since Juve, Conte has resigned from every job bar Chelsea. Not that a “Chelsea sack manager” headline is anything new.
Here’s why hiring Conte is never a long-term solution.
His players initially make a big leap forward when he takes command. They are happy to follow his maniacal instructions, issued from the touchline. His style is part of how he helps them to win as a unit.
But day after day of hearing that drill sergeant voice, those same instructions… you can understand why players might tire of it. It’s almost like Conte has squeezed every single drop of juice from them.
“I can’t change. I can’t change. I’m this, I’m this and er I think my past speaks very clear as a player and as a manager. Because I repeat. You can tell what you want but I’m a serial winner.”Beanyman Sports
Clubs accept his many demands because he gets results. But there’s only so long that club owners can let Conte’s ego be the biggest in the organisation.
And when Conte doesn’t get what he wants? He goes public.
He once said that “with only ten euros, you can’t eat in a one hundred euro restaurant.” It was a typically forthright dig at Juve when he was unhappy with the lack of activity in the transfer market.
He’s wedded to his 3-5-2 system, or some slight variant of it. He teaches his players set plays within those highly-defined roles, and drills his players until they know it inside out. Which is fine, until an opposition boss figures it out. Conte doesn’t have a plan B.
But if he thinks a player won’t work in his system, he’s prepared to freeze them out.
He tends to favour players that mirror the workmanlike attitude he showed as a Juve midfielder. Those who have talent but don’t give 100% every single day? They are vulnerable.
“Gab, this is a man of course, didn’t want Nainggolan, so they got rid of him. Didn’t want Icardi…they got rid of him. Wanted Lukaku, brought him in, wanted Alexis Sanchez, they brought him in… and still he’s moaning!
“Because of course he wanted Dzeko too, right? And those guys who left, by the way, Icardi, Nainggolan, you could add Perisic as well… they weren’t able to get any money for them, in part because Conte made it very clear sort of from day one… nah I don’t want these guys, get rid of them.”ESPN
In recent weeks he’s been compared to Jose Mourinho by the press. In fairness, there are similarities.
But there’s really no-one like Antonio Conte. One could argue that his behaviour is so predictable that he’s become a caricature of himself.
And so whoever does appoint him next better buckle up. They’re in for a wild ride.
Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Imy Harper.