Why Juventus should avoid going back to Antonio Conte

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 08 March 2019, 09:26

As discussed in last week’s Sack Race column, it’s looking increasingly likely that Juventus boss Max Allegri will be moving on in the summer, whether or not he achieves the club’s stated aim of winning the Champions League.

Reports in the Italian newspapers suggest that the relationship between the Coach and club President Andrea Agnelli is becoming increasingly difficult, making an exit almost certainly on the cards.

That leaves the Turin giants in a difficult position of knowing who to appoint for 2019/20, with possibly only one year of superstar Ronaldo at his peak remaining.

It is no secret that this is a club desperate to win the Champions League, and so the next managerial appointment they make simply must be the correct one.

On Wednesday, Italian sports newspaper Tuttosport mooted the idea of former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte making a sensational return, a whisper that has been circulating around the rumour mill a few times of late.

Is this the case of “better the devil you know” for Juve? Or should the Bianconeri never go back to their ex?

First of all, it’s important to note that this is a man who revitalised a side that had been mired in mediocrity, the team having finished seventh in each of the two seasons prior to his arrival.

A former Juve player, Conte came in and did we now know he does best, shaking things up and motivating players to the very maximum.

 

Looking back, it is perhaps no surprise that Juventus raced to the title that year having gone unbeaten all season, such was the turnaround after the bombastic Conte walked in.

He would go on to take the Bianconeri to another two back-to-back Scudetti, marking a genuine return to prominence for the Old Lady.

Yet his reign was not without its negatives and, as fans of Juventus, Italy and Chelsea can surely attest, this is a man whose unrelenting personality often brings a sour ending to proceedings.

His only knockout victory in the Champions League as Juve boss came against Celtic, and an obsession with obtaining a points record in Serie A led to him making a grave mistake in his final season in charge of the club.

With a huge lead at the top of the league, Conte selected a full-strength side versus lowly Sassuolo in full knowledge that the team faced the second leg of an Europa League semi-final versus Benfica just days later, with the final due to be played at Juve’s home stadium in Turin.

A 3-1 win in that league encounter was little consolation to supporters when they lost in the semi-final, and neither were they happy when the boss walked out of the club two days into pre-season training the following July.

There’s no doubt that this bad blood could be smoothed over in order to facilitate a Conte return, but in reality this move just doesn’t make any sense.

They would be replacing Allegri – who has won league-and-cup doubles in the last four consecutive seasons – with a man who is best described as a league expert but often comes up short on the biggest stage.

That is to do no disservice to Conte’s record, but he just isn’t the right candidate to ensure that Juve can win the Champions League with this small window of opportunity that Ronaldo has presented them with.

With the urgency that their ambitions induce, bringing in any new Coach is going to be a gamble at this point. Yet if you were to place your chips on anyone surely the winner of the last three consecutive Champions League trophies in Zinedine Zidane would be the best bet, rather than returning to a previous boss who has already failed to do so.

Any club such as AC Milan or Inter, who are planning to break Juve’s domestic dominance would be wise to appoint Conte. He is simply brilliant at achieving results in the league he knows so well, but Juve need a fresh start, and that must not involve looking back.

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Tony Pulis
Tony Pulis
(Middlesbrough)
17th May
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