Antonio Conte is extreme. Too extreme for some. This is a coach who’s so obsessed with his players being in peak physical condition he also provides them sex tips.
“Short bouts, with the minimal of work and use positions where they’re under their spouses,” the Inter manager told L’Equipe.
“And rather with their wives, because then you do not need to devote an exceptional performance!”
Conte is only concerned with his own gratification, when he believes he does not have a squad capable of carrying out the hyper-intense, meticulously organised, largely transitional style of football he wants, he lashes out at his directors.
It occurred at Juventus. It occurred at Chelsea. And it’s already occurred at Inter.
Even by Conte’s standards, however, his outburst after November’s 3-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund was phenomenal, and not merely because it came less than six months to his San Siro tenure.
“Big mistakes were made in preparation this year,” Conte told Sky Sport Italia right after the Champions League clash. “I do not care about January or February. We should’ve planned out this season much, much better.
“We demonstrated that we can trouble anyone if we’re on form, but there are players that have played nonstop. We Can’t play Serie A and the Champions League always pushed to the limits.
“I’m really pissed off because we can’t do more than that. I’m just fed up saying the same thing again and again. I hope a manager comes out and says something rather.”
Then, suddenly, surprisingly, they ran out of steam and Dortmund took full advantage, turning the match on its head to depart Conte incandescent with anger.
He felt he simply did not have enough strength in depth to rotate his players frequently to be able to keep them clean enough to execute his emotionally and physically draining tactics in two contests.
“The draw comes from the fact that we have to always go at 200 [kilometres] an hour,” Conte explained after the current Serie A draws with Lecce. “We aren’t a team that manages to bring home the victory going at a normal speed. When we can not reach the maximum, we’re a team.”
This is exactly why Conte was so desperate to include new players during the January transfer window, with Inter three points behind Serie A leaders Juventus having attracted five of the past seven matches.
And he does not want just any players. Conte needs Premier League players.
The Nerazzurri returned to Old Trafford this month to perform a 1.5m bargain for Ashley Young, whilst Victor Moses has joined on loan from Chelsea and could be followed into the Giuseppe Meazza by Olivier Giroud, however, at this time, Inter seem reluctant to satisfy the Frenchman’s valuation.
Obviously, we’re referring to players of varying levels of quality and maturity here but all of them played against Conte’s Chelsea.
During his two-year stint in Stamford Bridge, Conte transformed Moses to a marauding full-back who played a vital role in the Blues’ title triumph 2016-17 title victory, while Giroud was obtained from Arsenal for #18m at January 2018.
Both have endured dramatic drops since Conte’s exit. Moses spent the past year on loan in Fenerbahce, while Giroud has dropped behind Tammy Abraham from the striking pecking order under Frank Lampard.
Sanchez, of course, has played for Inter because of injury but Lukaku has formed a devastating partnership with Lautaro Martinez and is among the primary reasons why the Nerazzurri are challenging eight-time defending champions Juventus for this year’s Scudetto.
The Belgian was effusive in his praise of Conte, describing the Italian as the perfect trainer for him at this stage of his career.
Lukaku’s team-mates have been similarly ebullient, with Alessandro Bastoni labelling Conte “The Messi of training” and Nicolo Barella asserting that’s ready to die because of his boss.
The latter might have been guilty of suspicious hyperbole but there’s not any denying that Barella’s announcement is indicative of the sort of devotion Conte asks of his players, or”foot soldiers” as he calls them.
He certainly won’t tolerate anything less than maximum dedication. And if the hair is fake, the devil is extremely real!”
And the devil has to be obeyed.
“Physically, his teams are prepared to run 95 minutes in precisely the exact same level,” former Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic recently told Omnisport.
As we’ve already seen in Dortmund and Lecce, Conte’s Inter are still not capable of doing this twice a week.
Thus the need for reinforcements, with Conte clearly feeling that he’s best served by picking up players know about the frenetic pace of the Premier League instead of the slower Serie A.
Young is past his best but greeted the chance to move to Inter with the type of enthusiasm that would just have convinced Conte of his values. Maybe, more importantly, he boasts awards.
During that remarkable rant at Signal Iduna Park, an exasperated Conte asked,”We are talking about players that, aside from Diego Godin, haven’t won anything. Nicolo Barella who’s come from Cagliari? Or (Stefano) Sensi, who arrived from Sassuolo?”
Conte, then, does not just want cover or energy; he wants players with experience of having performed at the highest level. For him, that obviously means the Premier League.
Indeed, it’s telling that his search for greater creativity in midfield, arguably the greatest weakness in his remarkable but flawed Inter side, he ended up returning to England for Eriksen.
The Dane’s devotion to the Tottenham cause might have waned after his failure to secure a move last summer but he showed under Mauricio Pochettino he can press with the type of intensity that Conte requires.
If Conte finds a decent role for Eriksen in his favorite 3-5-2 formation, he could be set up as a No.8, or as a No.10 in a hybrid system more akin to some 3-4-1-2, that the Dane could well establish the missing piece from the Premier League mystery Conte is building at San Siro.
Needless to say, the prior Italy boss has triumphed in Serie A before using a squad of similar features.
In assault, Lukaku and Martinez seem like they have a much greater understanding than Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, and while Inter’s midfield has not attained anything like the degree of Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Pirlo, Stefano Sensi and Barella is young, hungry Italians of enormous potential.
Needless to say, Conte’s Juve did not triumph in Europe — they lacked the nous, finesse, and flexibility needed to do so; an allegation that could be made contrary to his present Inter outfit — but he believed that was due to the club’s refusal to back him in the transfer market.
It was the exact same story at Chelsea when Conte contended that his side would not have the ability to guard their Premier League title without serious investment. He believed that their victory was a freak accomplishment — and so it proved.
Conte understood fell-well where the threat was coming from.
The methods of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Pochettino might have diverse but all three supervisors played intensive games. The more players that they had at their disposal, the easier it was to sustain, and more likely it was to finish in silverware.
It is, therefore, no coincidence that both Guardiola and Klopp have enjoyed remarkable success in the meantime having been backed to the hilt in the transport market, whereas Pochettino is currently out of a job after going without one new player for 18 months of his tenure.
These were the two major lessons that Conte took from the time in England: the value of playing with strength; and the requirement of a deep pool of players so as to so.
Therefore, while the identity of some of Inter’s latest recruits are definitely surprising, that they’ve come in the Premier League is anything but.
Conte understands these players and he knows they could deal with his style of play. In virtually every instance, he understands that their clubs were, or are as desperate to eliminate them as they are supposed to leave.
He will certainly get one at Inter, where he will be expected to produce consistently unique performances.