The new stadium, his new adventure as Juventus coach after so many years as a player, his rapport with veterans Del Piero & Buffon, and the desire to become “Juve” again. Antonio Conte opens up to Sky Sport (via Tuttosport).
A great read into the man of the dugout at Juventus Football Club, fully translated by JuventiKnows:
First we had Conte’s unveiling as Juventus coach, and now the new stadium.
“Being the Juventus coach the same year we unveil the new stadium is a good omen for me. I hope will be for for Juventus as well.”
“Big emotions for certain. Strong emotions. I will hold most of them inside of me surely, but a few may break out to the exterior. The old Delle Alpi was the theater of so many great victories during “our” years, the Lippi cycle. In it we played many, many semifinals, including Champions League semis too. Surely there is a smell of victory in this stadium, you can feel and breathe it in the air.”
The new stadium you mean?
“Yes, it symbolizes the “new” in Italy, outside of the peninsula they’re already ahead of us. An innovative stadium is a test for everyone for certain, the club, the team, the coach, and also the supporters I think. There aren’t any barriers between the stands and the pitch, and this entails an important cultural growth. Supporters must cheer FOR Juventus, FOR our team. There is no doubt on that. For when that happens, it will be a great advantage for Juve and a disadvantage for our opponents.”
Juventus coach. Many responsibilities on your shoulders.
“Responsibilities are things I have always had. As player first, and since I started this new coaching career as well. Wherever I went, much was always asked out of me. It doesn’t frighten me, it gives me energy in an important way. It’s inevitable that being Juventus manager is something different and special compared to past experiences.”
Del Piero has congratulated you.
“I give Alex my thanks because his words are great praise. From my side, let me state again: having very clear ideas has helped me a lot so far, dealing with my team and in general, with those who have accompanied me in my career. Inevitably there’s still much work to be done and Alex represents an important point of reference for me.”
You have spent many years at Juventus.
“13 years of Juventus. 13 with Del Piero, 6-7 with Gigi. I now must face new situations and this gives me great enthusiasm, great desire. Because I know I have important points of reference as player inside that changing room. For good or for bad. And of that I am very proud.”
Any comments on Calciopoli and how it affected Juventus?
“Mmmh, I don’t think I’ll be saying anything different from everyone else before me: the post-Calciopoli era was devastating for Juventus, under all aspects. All their champions had to leave, and rebuilding is never easy. We are coming from two seasons where we ranked 7th these last two years. We must establish an important foundation this year, something on which to rebuild what is Juve’s birthright; that is the most difficult thing. I hope I will embody the humility, anger, will, and determination we are all feeling inside of us to overcome all obstacles. And that’s something we can start doing from the very beginning.”
Without a “Top Player” though.
“So the €25-30m champion did not arrive at Juventus, but neither did he at any other Serie A club. Though I’ll admit perhaps teams like AC Milan and Inter can count on an already important squad depth. Milan won the Scudetto last year, and Inter won practically everything two years ago. So they do have an important team structure in place, something on which to build, even if it is in limited ways. As far as we are concerned we’re coming from two 7th-rank seasons like I said, and must establish important foundations first. This year is so important for us under many different aspects: the opening of our new stadium, the desire to do great things… Every decision inevitably carries cohesion and great unity with the club management. There’s no doubt on that, it should be the same in every club. Ultimately the president always final decision, but we still share a common strategy in everything that we do.”
How will you handle all that?
“I will handle it the way the club tells me to. On decisions concerning club management I will fall in line with club policy.”
Let’s talk about your tactics, the “4-2-4″.
“There’s been too much talk on this particular way of playing. In actuality it’s a 4-4-2. I know of course novelty makes sometimes a great topic of discussion. If instead of saying “4-2-4″ I had said “4-4-2″ from the very beginning, we wouldn’t be discussing this “innovation”. Maybe all it is is just a normal idea of play. It is a normal 4-4-2. I think in England most teams that are winning are applying this type of module, which enables you to cover the playing field in the best possible way I think. Let me reiterate: everyone has their own ideas. As far as we’re concerned, we are fortunate enough to have players in the team that may permit us to change and use something different. The general idea on how we should play remains essentially the same though.”
You really have risen through the ranks since you started.
“I am proud of my humble beginnings as coach. I didn’t think twice when it was time tp stop playing at age 34 and begin my career as De Canio’s collaborator at Siena. And then move on to Arezzo, Bari, Bergamo and to Siena again last year. Let me repeat this: I am very proud to have been around before being given this great opportunity. For coming back to Juventus is indeed a great opportunity, but let me also state I have earned this opportunity on the field. I do not consider it a destiny, even though like any coach who begins his career my ambition was to arrive at a big club. The fact I arrived at Juventus is a dream coming true and the fulfillment of my ambitions. I must also say Juventus is not a point of arrival, but rather a starting point. I still have a lot to prove, the same way I did before in my past experiences.”
Tell us about president Andrea Agnelli.
“There is a great rapport between me and the president for we share the same Juventus past, those years of victory, when Andrea (not president at the time) would come and accompany his father. Often he would stop by and chat with us, ask us questions. We have a great relationship, much like the one I share with director general Marotta. There is a great cohesion within this group, like I said, and this must be our strength. It can take us a long way.”
There’s a nice climate in this “Juventus by Conte”.
“That’s not up for me to say, but I think it’s the right climate. It’s normal for us to spend and play as much time together as possible, so we may try to repeat what we do at practice during match time. Because of international matches (and also a bit because of Copa América) we now have 4-5 players on the squad that have spent very little time with us. So it will take a little while before they start to assimilate our playing system.”
What can you tell us about your working philosophy?
“My philosophy is to work, as well as being polite and respectful. That is how I am, and that is what I demand from others. I am a great on-the-field worker. There is much I expect from myself, and I therefore expect the same thing from others.”
The concept of “group” is a recurring theme with you.
“Rather than “group” I prefer the concept of “team”. What is a team? It is one thing above all: an assembly of players who under all circumstances, positive or negative, moves like a single unit. This is very important for us if we are to return being competitive in the shortest possible amount of time. We must become “team” as early as we possibly can.”
What is Conte’s definition of a “champion”?
“A champion is someone who, in all cases, leads by example in all walks of life. On the field but more importantly, off the field. Being a champion means being a champion in everything: behaviour, politeness, being respectful talking & offering help to one’s teammates, coach, team staff and upper management. The true champion is a champion in everything.”
Tell us about wearing that captain’s armband.
“They always say the armband is heavy. That’s because it is both an honor and a burden. Being captain at Juve carries two great responsibilities: the captain is firstly the person who represents the entire team, the coach, and the club in every situation. Often he becomes the chain-link that ties club, technical staff, and team together. But also being captain, not just any captain but the captain of Juventus (which by the way represents the absolute best for me on footballing terms), that’s even more difficult. There’s no doubt on that. Having played for 13 years wearing this shirt on my shoulders is a great honor and privilege. Today, being its manager is something I get excited about every day.”
So it all starts against Parma.
“We start with Juventus vs. Parma yes. We start by trying, like I said, to create something important for our present and build something even more important for our future. It won’t be easy, we know that much. There’s a long road ahead of us. But with unity amongst ourselves, the club, the players, and the fans, this road will shortened considerably, of that I am sure.”