AC Milan: Should they move for Antonio Conte?
Rumours have surfaced that Milan are preparing a three-year deal worth £6 million for the former Chelsea manager.
The official line coming out of Milan is there has been no contact between the club and Antonio Conte. Nothing. Not as much as a WhatsApp asking: “Hey Tone, what are you up to these days?”
But following the appointment of new Sporting Director Leonardo and confirmation that Conte has finally emerged from a hostage situation at Stamford Bridge, there were bound to be rumours, as per the Evening Standard.
Besides, in the wasteland of the post-World Cup apocalypse, rumours are all that’s left for zombified sports writers to feed on until the seeds of a new season sprout.
The talk of an approach for Conte has been widespread despite Gennaro Gattuso signing a new three-year deal back in April. The former Rossoneri midfielder was originally hired back in November and led the club to sixth place in Serie A after a grafting end to the campaign.
But a record of eight defeats in 16 games left many questioning the merit of his renewal. So, should Milan look to Conte as a replacement?
Elite track record
It would be inconceivable to think the club have not considered making contact. The Lecce-born coach is among the world’s elite tacticians and has enjoyed success at various levels in Italy.
He led Bari and Siena into the top flight either side of a difficult spell at Atalanta in which he felt the full wrath of the club’s notorious ultras following a home defeat to Napoli early in 2010. His declaration of dreaming of coaching former club Juventus never endeared him to the Bergamo faithful, and he wasted no time in tendering his resignation once threatened with physical abuse.
Fortunately, that spell did not prevent him from fulfilling his ambition of landing the top job in Turin where he won three consecutive league titles and two Italian Super Cups during his three years in charge.
He then led Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 before guiding Chelsea to the Premier League title in 2016/17 and the FA Cup last season. After falling out with the Stamford Bridge hierarchy, he left the club this month, his protracted departure set to be resolved in court.
Milan have not had a coach of Conte’s calibre since Max Allegri departed back in 2014. Since then, they have lurched from one disappointing appointment to another, switching between coaches with different styles and levels of experience.
Recent financial issues at the club may make an agreement difficult as Conte is now one of the highest profile coaches in the game.
And if a deal can be reached on a personal level, the club may have limited resources to invest in the playing squad, a factor that could cause Conte and his advisors to look elsewhere.
Fans would be divided
His appointment would also draw a mixed response from Milanisti many of who are resigned to backing Gattuso. Dumping a club legend would leave a sour taste and there would need to be a noticeable improvement early on to justify the decision.
However, the club must recognise that a coach of this calibre does not become available too often and unless they act soon, they risk losing out altogether. The only sticking point is that Conte is unlikely to put pen to paper until his dispute with Chelsea is resolved.
Buck stops with new owners
Following his recent arrival, Leonardo was quoted by Goal as saying: “Gattuso has grown as a coach, he’s a Milan man and we’ll go from there.”
That line provides enough ambiguity to suggest that he is keeping all options open. And with hedge fund Elliott Management now in control, the decision may not even rest in his hands.