Chelsea: Should Antonio Conte go to Real Madrid?
The Italian has been linked with the vacant Bernabéu hot seat. But is he the right fit?
Why would Antonio Conte want to stay?
His reputation has been sullied all year at Chelsea, despite winning a second trophy in his sophomore campaign.
Rumours of disharmony in the playing squad, coupled with a disastrous downturn in form, have prompted his employers to seek out replacements.
For much of the season, his departure has felt like a foregone conclusion. The resignation of Zinedine Zidane from the Real Madrid job has only intensified questions about Conte’s future, with his name being linked with the Bernabeu vacancy.
The question is, would he be a good fit?
Conte has already proven his adaptability, winning the title in his first season outside Italy.
Whilst the media focused on the rekindling of the José Mourinho/Pep Guardiola rivalry, the former Juventus man set about dominating the league courtesy of a dynamic 3-4-3 formation.
Fringe players like Victor Moses combined with astute acquisitions like Marcos Alonso and N’Golo Kante. The Blues were invincible from the Autumn onwards, beating all of their major rivals in an incessant march to the trophy.
Chelsea’s players were blown away by the intensity of his methods and bought into his repartee fully. Conte, no stranger to dominant personalities during his time in Turin and London, would have no qualms about implanting this strict regime in Madrid’s hallowed corridors.
Los Merengues were dire in the first half of the league season, numbingly inconsistent as Barcelona ran away with an easy title win. Conte would have his players hewn and drilled for every game, ensuring no complacency could set in on the domestic front.
Whilst the Italians’ blustering methods can provide a useful shot in the arm, he can also push his players too far on occasion.
Last October, reports emerged about the Chelsea squad’s frustration with his demands.
Conte had insisted on a punishing regimen, even as his players struggled through an injury crisis. A 3-3 draw with Roma in the Champions League felt like a nadir, with his charges going a third straight fixture without a win.
Conte would be paid even shorter shrift by Madrid’s gold-plated playing staff. Under both Carlo Ancelotti and his successor Zidane, the emphasis has been on gentle cajoling and reasoned persuasion.
It would be hard, for instance, to see Conte persuading Cristiano Ronaldo that he needs to play less (something that Zidane did so masterfully during his tenure).
A company man?
It is that failure to play politics which makes Conte’s candidacy appear so fatally flawed.
The Italian embarked on a year-long sulk this season, cuckolded by the resignation of his technical director Michael Emenalo as well as a failure of the higher-ups to snare his preferred transfer targets.
His malcontent has been clear in every press conference and his patience worn increasingly thin with every probing question.
The Italian has proven himself to be anything but a ‘company man’ and would be a rough fit for a president with little time for viewpoints other than his own.
Conte’s failure to win anything in Europe poses serious question marks about his suitability. He left Juventus in 2014, citing Andrea Agnelli’s failure to provide him with the players necessary to mount a Champions League assault.
Barely a year later, Max Allegri led the same group to the final against Barcelona. Conte has endured similar frustrations in London, having been unable to progress beyond the quarter-final stage.
Florentino Pérez might baulk at giving him the keys to a team that could make footballing history if they were to win a fourth consecutive title next year.
Conte, therefore, is too much of a risk. Brash and brilliant though he may be, his temperament and lack of European trophies should absolve him from consideration.
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