Antonio Conte has been strongly linked with the Newcastle job and Lorenzo Bettoni explains why the idea of seeing the former Juventus and Inter coach at St James’ Park is not as strange as it might sound.
If there’s one thing Antonio Conte cares about, it’s winning. He is so obsessed with lifting trophies that he even called his daughter ‘Vittoria’, victory in English.
Juventus, Inter and Chelsea fans know this very well. Conte brought the first Scudetto of the post-Calciopoli era to Turin after two consecutive 7th-place finishes. He did the same in the following two seasons before leaving the Turin giants, where he didn’t see room for improvement and fell out with the board over their transfer strategies. Time proved him wrong, but this doesn’t matter now.
Last season, he ended Juventus’ decade of domestic dominion, winning Inter’s first Scudetto in 11 years. In between, he snatched a Premier League and an FA Cup in two seasons with Chelsea and led Italy to the quarter-finals of UEFA Euro 2016, losing on penalties against Germany, with a team that two years later would not even qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
In short, if there’s a coach who can bring a winning mentality and provide silverware in the short term, there’s nobody quite like Conte. Newcastle’s new owners Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund know it too and it’s no coincidence the Italian has been linked with the job at St James’ Park.
It may sound like an impossible scenario but it is not as strange as it appears.
Having a coach like Conte comes with a burden and Newcastle owners must be aware of that too.
Assuming that matching his hefty salary demands won’t be a problem, the club board must know that the project presented to Conte will be crucial for his decision.
According to reports in Italy, the 52-year-old won’t accept a new job before the beginning of 2022-23, but it remains to be seen if their current coach Steve Bruce will manage to handle the pressure coming from already intense rumours regarding his successor.
A few weeks after his exit from Inter last summer, Tottenham approached Conte, but talks between the Italian coach and Spurs collapsed because Conte thought the project would not suit him.
“Generally, I like challenges and I’ve accepted many of them during my career,” Conte explained in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport in June.
“I look for projects instead and I am ready to stay at home if something is not convincing to me. It has to do with vision, honesty and principles.
“Even the top clubs I coached were never the favourites when I arrived. However, if there’s something that doesn’t convince me, I prefer not to accept regardless of the money.”
These lines are all you need to know to understand his vision and why seeing him in charge of Newcastle may not be impossible.
Conte wants a well-structured club and, above all, a consistent transfer budget. This is one of the reasons why he first walked out of Juventus and then Inter. The Italian can give an immediate boost to the squad and his impact is immediately recognisable from his very first friendly in charge of a new team.
However, Conte’s expectations in terms of transfers are really, really high. He has clear ideas, but he wants a club that is able to match his ambition. If it doesn’t happen, he leaves or he doesn’t accept the offer in the first place.
The only question then is: how much will Newcastle invest over the next 2-3 years? Which kind of players will they attract? Of course, it would be easier to persuade the biggest names to move up north with a boss like Conte.
There’s another thing that would help Conte at Newcastle and that’s the pressure. Although with him in charge, many would see the Magpies as genuine contenders for a top-four spot, the 52-year-old would always try to ease the pressure on his players and deflect it onto the biggest sides. Conte doesn’t mind being in charge of underdogs. One would argue he prefers to start in the second or third row of the grid. Even when his Inter side became the clear favourites to win the title last season, Conte would not admit they were until late March when it was evident to everybody they would make it.
It’s hard to imagine Conte coming back to Serie A anytime soon, due to the clubs’ financial struggles, so it’s likely that a Premier League club will be his next destination.
Will it be Newcastle? It’s hard to say it right now. There could be many other top clubs in England looking for a coach soon. With all the respect due to the Magpies that are many top clubs who could offer a job to Conte within the next ten months, maybe even Barcelona in Spain could knock on his door, but, yet again, the Catalans won’t be able to offer him the same economic guarantees in terms of team’s development as some of the big Premier League clubs.
Can Newcastle hope to hire Conte? Yes, dreams cost nothing. Now they have the money and the ambition to imagine a bright future, but whether or not they will be able to secure his signature is a whole different story and, perhaps, it doesn’t even entirely depend on them.