Former Chelsea bosses Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri go head-to-head for Serie A titleby Chloe Beresford / 11 July 2019, 13:18Tweet
With the appointment of Frank Lampard, Chelsea moved away from the latest run in their trend of Italian bosses for the first time since Guus Hiddink was announced in December 2015.
Antonio Conte followed the Dutchman following a spell with the Italian national team, and this time last year the Blues would reveal that former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri would succeed him.
Just a year later, and the latter pair will face each other as adversaries in the forthcoming Serie A campaign. Conte was taking a year away from football as Sarri steered Chelsea to a 3rd place finish and the Europa League trophy last season, but the former Juventus boss shocked Bianconeri supporters by taking up the hot seat at most hated rivals Inter.
Indeed, a supporter of Italy’s Old lady created a petition with Change.org which has been signed by almost 15,000 people, bidding for the club to remove Conte’s star from the club’s walk of fame inside the stadium.
At Inter, the boss will be partnered with former Juve director general Beppe Marotta, and the duo will look to repeat the success they enjoyed in Turin after they won three consecutive Serie A titles between 2011 and 2014.
"The presence of Marotta was certainly an incentive,” Conte admitted in his introductory press conference. “He knows me well, he knows what my strengths and weaknesses are as I know his. I chose a club with great tradition, one of the most important in the world, so it was easy to accept.
“I am a person who has no limits and I don't want others to set them at the beginning of the season either. In setting limits I would immediately give the team excuses and I don't want this to happen.
“We know very well that in the last few years that a huge gap has been opened up for two teams, especially Juventus, but there is also Napoli, who have shown they can compete at a high level.”
The gap that Conte mentions had expanded to 11 points between winners Juve and second-placed Napoli by the end of last season, and could have been more if Juve hadn’t lost focus in the final matches after the title had already been won. Meanwhile Inter ended up a massive 21 points behind the league winners in fourth, leaving – on the surface at least – a gargantuan gulf for Conte to make up.
Yet Juve themselves have moved into a new era with Sarri, the ex-Chelsea man with work to do. Former boss Max Allegri took over where Conte had left off in Turin in 2014 to add five more consecutive Scudetto victories to make a total of eight in a row. A failure to progress in the Champions League signalled Allegri’s goodbye and time to welcome in a new era at the club, however those in charge understand that this may not mean immediate success.
As Inter have suddenly become stronger, times are uncertain at Juve. The club certainly needed to try something new, but no-one can predict if Sarri is the right man. It’s now widely understood that his precise methods take time to implement and – added with the club’s obsession with winning in Europe – there may be just a glimmer of opportunity that Conte could take advantage of.
"We know that we are called to work harder than others to fill this gap,” the Nerazzurri boss continued.
“But we must start with the ambition to give everything we have and in the end we will see what happens.”
If anyone can squeeze out every last drop of effort from his players, it’s Antonio Conte. What happens next will be anyone’s guess, but what’s for sure is that the title battle will be more interesting than ever as two former Chelsea bosses go head-to-head in Serie A.