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Football
Conte leads the new guard in Italy
Master motivator signals a shift to younger managers as Juventus scoop their first scudetto in nine years.
Last Modified: 07 May 2012 13:05
Forty-two-year-old Antonio Conte guided the Turin side to their 28th title with victory over Cagliari on Sunday night [REUTERS]

Anything Massimiliano Allegri and AC Milan can do, Antonio Conte and Juventus can do just as well, and a year younger.

A year ago, Allegri led Milan to their first Serie A title in seven years in his first season at the club, and at just 43 years of age.

One season on and Conte has matched that feat, bringing Juve a first scudetto since 2003 in his debut campaign for the Old Lady of Turin, and a year younger than Allegri.

It is a remarkable trend that has seen Italy's biggest and most prestigious clubs shuffle the old guard out the door and put their faith in young, energetic and dynamic coaches.

Inter Milan may not have won anything this season but they have gone to the extremes, hiring a coach in Andrea Stramaccioni who is younger even at 36 than some of their players. And yet this faith in youth has born fruit with both Milan and Juve picking up the title in the last two years.

Milan let Carlo Ancelotti leave for Chelsea and while things did not work out with Leonardo, a year later Allegri turned the promise he had shown in two years at the Cagliari helm into concrete silverware.

Now Conte has done likewise after succeeding another elder statesman in Luigi Delneri.

Remarkable achievement

Conte's achievement cannot be overstated, despite the resources at his disposal. It is true that Juve are traditional giants, the most supported club across the country and they have spent huge amounts on trying to bring success back to a club hit hard by their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal in 2006.

Relegated for match-fixing, they saw stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Cannavaro and Patrick Vieira jump ship rather than spend a season in Serie B.

They spent a lot of money to rebuild having come back up at the first attempt but shelling out the euros does not guarantee success by any means.

Since coming back into the top flight, Juve went through four different coaches in four seasons before turning to their former captain and midfield general Conte. And while there is no doubt that over the previous two seasons the Juve whole was very much worth less than the sum of its parts, recalibrating that anomaly has been to Conte's credit.

Whereas big money signings such as Diego, Amauri and Felipe Melo came and went without producing an impact to match their transfer fees and salaries, Conte has got the best out of his squad.

Juve are no less filled with Italy internationals and first choice starters from other national teams now than they were pre-Conte but the emotional coach has managed to gel them. And that despite even more limited Serie A experience than Allegri.

The Milan coach had spent two years at Cagliari before moving to the rossoneri but Conte's only previous top flight coaching chance was an unsuccessful three-and-a-half month spell at Atalanta.

However, he had shown in winning the Serie B title with Bari in 2009 and guiding Siena to promotion to Serie A two seasons later that he could build a winning side, and more importantly motivate players.

Master motivator

Motivation has been a crucial part of Conte's repertoire and to see him jumping up and down on the touchline, veins popping out of his neck, face crimson red and mouth open in full scream, you can see how much this job and success means to him.

Conte was exactly what Juve needed, a son of the club, whose 13 years there as a player coincided with one of the greatest periods in the club's history.

He has managed to remind the players just who they are playing for and what is expected of them, perhaps in part because he hasn't forgotten what it meant to play for the biggest and best club in Italy.

It is a case of the experience of youth trumping the experience of age and Conte has epitomised the new drive and desire that has helped Juve reclaim their glory of old. 

Source:
AFP
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