ROME : Antonio Conte guarantees one thing almost everywhere he goes: trophies.
The Italian’s record is remarkable. He won three consecutive Serie A titles at Juventus between 2011 and 2014 to set the club on a run of nine league crowns in a row.
He lifted the Premier League and FA Cup with Chelsea, while last season he led Inter Milan to their first Scudetto in 11 years.
Now, as he returns to England to take charge of Tottenham Hotspur, he faces one of his greatest challenges yet in turning around an underperforming side that has not won anything in 13 years.
The Italian never needs long to make his presence felt.
He led Inter to second place in his debut season, one point behind champions Juve and 13 points better off than they were a year earlier, as well as reaching the Europa League final.
It was no mean feat for a side that had finished no higher than fourth in the previous eight campaigns, and Conte went one better by guiding them to the title the following year.
It continued a theme for Conte in big-club jobs. Juventus finished seventh before he took over in 2011. A year later, they were Italian champions and 26 points better off than the previous season.
It was the same at Chelsea, who finished 10th the year before Conte’s arrival, before winning the title at the first time of asking, 43 points better off than the year before.
While in charge of Italy, Conte took a side lacking in star quality to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, losing on penalties to Germany, two years after failing to get out of the group stage at the World Cup.
DEMANDING BUT EFFECTIVE
The 52-year-old has established a reputation for being a demanding, intense character.
He has described himself as a “hammer” and famously lamented shortly before leaving Juventus in 2014 that “you can’t eat in a 100 euro (US$116) restaurant with 10 euros in your pocket”.
Complaints about a lack of investment continued at Inter.
Conte said a few months into his reign that there were “important mistakes at the planning stage”, as new signings Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi were “players who have never won anything”, leaving him struggling to juggle domestic and European duties.
During his Chelsea spell, striker Diego Costa accused Conte of treating him like a “criminal” after the manager froze him out of the team.
But, with Conte’s encouragement, Inter did invest big.
Barella and Sensi were both expensive signings, while Romelu Lukaku cost a club record 74 million euros from Manchester United and Achraf Hakimi and Christian Eriksen were also pricey acquisitions.
The coach demanded a title-winning team, and he got one.
Lukaku was an example of Conte’s undoubted ability to get the best from his players. The Belgian arrived for a club record fee at the coach’s request in 2019, low on confidence after a difficult spell at Old Trafford.
Under Conte’s tutelage, his physical fitness and form hit new highs, with the revitalised striker scoring 64 goals over two years before joining Chelsea for a reported club record 97.5 million pound (US$133.04 million) fee in August.
“He really helped me and showed me what it took to win,” Lukaku told the Independent.
By the time Lukaku left, Conte was already gone. His contract termination was bitter and sudden, coming three days after the end of Inter’s triumphant league campaign.
The manager was left frustrated by Inter’s plans to sell key players to raise funds, and Lukaku and Hakimi later joined Chelsea and PSG, respectively.
Zhang claimed they had “different ideas”, but Conte later said “my project never changed”, not long after his assistant Cristian Stellini had warned the club that “a top coach requires a top project too.”
Now, Conte believes that is what he has got at Tottenham.
(US$1 = 0.8621 euros)
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(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)