Tottenham Hotspur Coach Antonio Conte: “Scudetto With Inter Was The Masterpiece Of My Career”

Tottenham Hotspur Coach Antonio Conte: “Scudetto With Inter Was The Masterpiece Of My Career”
November 20, 2021 12:15
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Tottenham Hotspur coach Antonio Conte believes that his Scudetto triumph with Inter last season was the highlight of his coaching career.

In a wide-ranging interview published in today’s newspaper edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport, Conte reflected on his stint with the Nerazzurri that saw him end nine years of Juventus dominance in Serie A, having won three league titles previously with the Bianconeri.

“Rebuilding the cycle of success with Juve was hard, because we were playing against an AC Milan of [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, [Alessandro] Nesta and Thiago Silva. Against the treble-winning Inter and the Napoli of [Edinson] Cavani, [Ezequiel] Lavezzi and [Marek] Hamsik,” the 52-year-old claimed.

“But the real masterpiece was the Scudetto with Inter. In two years we overthrew a sporting monarchy. If we hadn’t been able to interrupt the Juventus cycle, Juve would still be there. When you beat someone, you undermine their certainty.”

Conte left Inter this summer and was initially approached by Tottenham to replace Jose Mourinho, but rejected the chance and Spurs turned to Nuno Espirito Santo.

However, when the Portuguese was sacked at the start of this month, Conte accepted a second approach and admitted that his departure from Inter had been too raw the first time around.

“Only the charm of the Premier League could convince me to return so soon. When owner [Daniel] Levy approached me for the first time in June, I thanked him but didn’t accept. The two-year period with Inter that resulted in a Scudetto was extraordinary for the amount of work carried out in just two years, breaking down the hegemony of Juve,” he continued.

“But it had left many toxins from an all-encompassing and very hard job, culminating in the joy of the success, but also in the great disappointment at the change of plans and perspectives that led to my departure. I needed to unplug. But when Levy returned he convinced me by showing he wanted me at all costs. In his project I perceived a vision. It’s a word very dear to me.”

Tottenham have not tasted league success since 1961, whilst their last cup triumph came in the League Cup in 2008, but Conte felt he thrived on turning underachieving teams into winners.

“I’ve always taken teams that are in difficult times and need to rebuild. Juve were out of Europe, Italy had been knocked out at the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, Chelsea had finished 10th, Inter hadn’t won since 2010. I have never made comfortable choices, but this one of Tottenham is certainly the most difficult and therefore also the most stimulating.”

Conte is joined in the Premier League by his former Inter striker Romelu Lukaku, now at Chelsea, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo departed Juventus to return to Manchester United.

“I absolutely didn’t think I’d be in the Premier League with them six months ago. I didn’t think my Nerazzurri adventure could end. They (Lukaku and Ronaldo0 are different situations. But when the opportunity to return as protagonists in the Premier League is created, it is difficult to say no. Surely their departure has impoverished Italian football. They are two stars.”

The ex-Juventus midfielder briefly reflected on the current title race in Serie A, as well as the differences between the top flights in Italy and England.

“At the moment it looks like a three-way race together with Inter. But now I’m busy thinking about who is fighting for the top in the Premier League. The greater intensity and less tactical focus makes the games more spectacular here. It goes in constant gusts. There is a different level of athleticism. If a player is not strong, fast and resilient, he cannot play in the Premier League. Even the small players are made of granite.

“The English league improves you. This applies to the players, but also to the coaches. In general it is the environment around the game, the show on the pitch, the respect for the key players, the way of living the match as a great sporting event that is different from Italy. There is less focus on poison and controversies here.”

Conte enjoyed a spell as Italy coach from 2014 to 2016 and offered his thoughts on the current Azzurri set up, as they were condemned to a play-off for next year’s World Cup just months after winning Euro 2020.

“We all won a wonderful European Championship. When things like this, that are a little unexpected, happen it means that everything worked perfectly and the stars were all aligned. During the Euros journey, the enthusiasm and confidence grew.

“We deserved the lucky moments, the ball that hit the post and went in, [Austria’s Marko] Arnautovic’s goal that was ruled out for nothing, the player who gets hurt and his replacement seals the match, the challenges against Spain and England won on penalties.

“After that you become champions, but the pressures increase. The opponents play the games of their lives against you, the expectations increase. Switzerland were through because of Jorginho’s penalty, who never gets them wrong. Italy must recover the magic, the right mix, the anger, and hope that the stars will come back into alignment.

“We don’t have top players like Lukaku or [Harry] Kane. But we don’t demean [Ciro] Immobile. For me he remains essential. The work he does is underestimated, in every game he runs more than everyone else, attacks from deep, fights.

“I hope we can quality. There is only one opponent to fear, and that is Portugal. They are a strong team, full of quality players, not only Ronaldo. The others do not worry me, but with them the challenge is equal,” Conte concluded.

By Suhayl Al-Sammari

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