Marotta and Conte Propelling Inter Forward With A Clear Vision

When Giuseppe Marotta was appointed as Inter’s sporting director after an abrupt departure from Juventus, the nerazzurri sent a clear message of intent to the rest of the league.

Rather than being satisfied with vying for a place in the top four, Inter wanted to emerge as contenders once more. Gone are the days of Pazza Inter and they have since been replaced with stability and a particular focus on the team rather than the individual. Marotta’s track record is impressive within Italy, and he played a major role in Juventus’ ascent back to the top of Italian and European football.

However, much of this success couldn’t have been achieved without the initial groundwork laid down by Antonio Conte in 2011. In the tactician’s first season, Juve’s roster was nowhere near what it is today, and frankly was inferior to Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan that they were up against. Instilling this belief of ‘us v them’ and bringing back a sense of accountability to the side, Juventus won their first Scudetto in years against all the odds.

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To this day, It remains a mystery how the bianconeri would finish that season undefeated with the likes of Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic leading the line and Paolo De Ceglie featuring regularly. At the same time, however, Juve’s success with limited resources was a testament to Conte’s great work.

Now reunited with Marotta at Inter, expect no less from the veteran tactician. The duo have been together in Milan for a mere couple of months and have already banished notorious bad apples, Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan from the club.

As per Bleacher Report, Marotta proclaimed neither player had a spot in Conte’s team. “Talent can win you games, but the squad wins you the league, which is the main objective we are setting out for,” said Marotta. “They are not part of our project, with all due respect.”

While both Icardi and Nainggolan have been among Inter’s top performers and are a major reason behind their recent Champions League qualification, their exclusions show that Conte and Marotta are ready to build a true team rather than a collection of talented individuals; something that the Inter brass have struggled with in the past. If the nerazzurri’s summer activity is anything to go by, you can already see the duo’s work slowly being put into place.

Much like it was the case at Juventus, Marotta turned to a free transfer to shore up a squad need, and brought in Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan is among the best defenders in the world and will fit like a glove in Conte’s back three alongside Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij. In many ways, this is Inter’s version of Juventus’ BBC, albeit with way more to prove.

Diego Godin

Outside of defence, Inter have secured Italian internationals Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi for their midfield. Both players are the archetypal Conte midfielders and possess the qualities the former Chelsea tactician demands. Determined, technical and team-oriented. In Inter’s new-look midfield, Barella will act as a mezz’ala (#8) making late runs into the box much like Marchisio did at Juve while Sensi will be used as the side’s regista. In this role, the former Sassuolo man will be able to make the most of his range of passing and in many ways, will be a poor man’s Andrea Pirlo for Conte.

Realizing that centre midfield wasn’t their only need, Marotta quickly concluded a deal for Valentino Lazaro. At just 23 years old, the fullback has demonstrated he’s a hard worker and is the prototypical two-way player. Lazaro will be a much welcomed addition down the right-hand side; think Stephan Lichtsteiner but with more upside and end-product.

To round off Conte’s 3-5-2, he has requested Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku. While the Belgian has blown hot and cold for the Red Devils, finding the back of the net has never been an issue for the former Chelsea man. With his towering physique and keen eye for goal, expect the 26-year-old to slot in wonderfully alongside Lautaro Martinez. Martinez and Lukaku are the typical, hard-working, ‘small-big’ partnership Conte has turned to in the past. Think Vucinic-Giovinco, Tevez-Llorente, Eder-Pelle, and so on and so forth. Inter are reportedly tabling their first bid for the striker shortly and have prioritized the Belgian.

With both Conte and Marotta leaving Juventus on poor terms in their own way, the duo have now reconnected at their fiercest rivals and are well on their way at creating a Juventus 2.0, but this time, in Milano. Banishing drama-kings Icardi and Nainggolan was the first step, followed by the acquisitions of prototypical Conte players. It may not end the same way as the league is much stronger than it was in years past, but one thing’s for sure: Linking up Conte and Marotta is Inter’s best bet at silverware in nearly a decade.

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A Look At Juventus’ Coaching Candidates

With the future of Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri hanging in the balance after their recent European failure, a number of names have been linked with the bianconero hot seat. As Champions League glory remains the target, it remains to be seen just who president Andrea Agnelli will elect to lead the charge for the upcoming season. Here are the possibilities for the Juventus job.

Pochettino

1) Mauricio Pochettino 

The Tottenham Hotspur manager has done an exceptional job with limited resources throughout his time in London, and has led the English side to their first Champions League final in their history. Win or lose against Liverpool come June 1st, Pochettino has alluded to the fact that his five-year tenure may be coming to an end. Italian media outlets have ran with his comments, and have recently linked him with the Juventus post.

The Argentine tactician has a clear philosophy at all clubs he’s been with, something Juventus have lacked under Allegri this season. However, one stumbling block remains his salary. According to Corriere dello Sport, Pochettino is demanding 20 million euros per season, making it rather difficult for the Italian champions to compete with suitors.

In any case, Pochettino should be Agnelli’s primary target, and would undoubtedly make the most of Juventus’ deep roster. With European glory as their priority, the Argentine may just prove to be exactly what Juventus need.

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2) Antonio Conte

Much like Pochettino, former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has been heavily linked with a return to Juventus in recent times. That being said, Sky’s Gianluca Di Marzio recently reported that the former Juventus tactician is extremely close to penning a deal with fierce rivals Inter. Regardless of these reports, Conte, a manager who set the first building blocks for this Juventus side eight years ago, remains a concrete possibility for the job.

A main concern for Agnelli, however, other than the fallout from his abrupt departure, is Conte’s ability to juggle European football along with domestic demands. In the past, the Italian tactician rarely rotated his eleven, and often struggled to replicate his side’s domestic form in Europe, crashing out of the Champions League group stages in disappointing fashion. Despite this, Conte recently came out in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, and claimed his stints with Chelsea and Italy have made him a better manager in this respect.

Moreover, it’s important to consider that Juventus’ side today are much stronger than Conte’s Juve, which is likely playing a decisive factor in the tactician’s decision to stall talks with Inter for the time being. While a reunion with Marotta at Inter is likely for Conte, don’t be surprised to see the veteran tactician replacing the man who succeeded him come summertime.

Lazio v Salzburg - UEFA Europa League - Quarter Final - First Leg - Stadio Olimpico

3) Allegri v the field

Other than Pochettino and Conte, a number of other managers have been linked with the Juventus job, albeit less seriously. According to recent reports, Agnelli is also weighing up the option of hiring France boss Didier Deschamps. Much like Allegri, the French tactician is pragmatic with his approach, and would represent maintaining the status quo for Juventus.

Otherwise, Simone Inzaghi, Gian Piero Gasperini and Sinisa Mihajlovic have also been linked. The trio are all familiar with Italian football, and all have different merits. Firstly, Gasperini has done fantastic with Atalanta, getting them to their first Coppa Italia final in decades, and is two wins away from Champions League qualification. However, doubts remain over his ability to translate this to a big club, as seen through his past failure with Inter. In addition, there’s no reason why Gasperini should leave Atalanta after leading them to the first Champions League qualification in recent times. After all, Gasperini and gli Orobici are a match-made in heaven.

Inzaghi and Mihajlovic are interesting appointments in their own way, but frankly, are not Juventus calibre, especially if Champions League is the objective. If the bianconeri’s primary options aren’t feasible, Allegri may prove to be the best of the rest.

For the time being, no one really knows which way Agnelli is leaning, and could very well keep Allegri at the helm for the upcoming season. However, if recent reports are anything to go by, the Juventus president will likely be replacing Allegri by season’s end.

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Conte flirts with Juventus return

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Antonio Conte opened the door at a return to Juventus in an interview to Gazzetta dello Sport, where he addressed his abrupt farewell: “Those three years were very intense, we pushed maybe further that could we go. They were draining on all aspects. I think that it can happen to fight sometimes even in the best families. I gave my whole in that span, like in every place I have gone. I felt I owed it to Agnelli. I remember that we promised to each other to return on top of the world, but we did not manage to complete it. There must be two willing parties to celebrate a wedding. I think that they have started a journey and they have are very happy with Massimiliano Allegri, he is doing very well.” Continue reading

Taking Stock of the market for managers in Serie A

With four games to go in the season, many clubs are already looking to the future. The first order of business is deciding who will be sitting on the club’s benches, so here’s a list of available options

 

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Antonio Conte

 

The former Chelsea manager has a wide range of options between clubs who will definitely need a coach next season (Roma and Milan) and those who may look for a change (Juventus and Inter) if right candidate comes around. While Roma have been pushing hard to sign him and are trying to make their job more attractive by hiring Conte’s former teammate and friend Gianluca Petrachi to be the sporting director, Conte is taking time to ponder his options. He could take a page out of the Lippi and Trapattoni playbook by returning to Juventus, but at the moment the bianconeri’s first choice appears to be Guardiola, who unlike Conte, would bring a radically different approach than Allegri’s to the club. Inter would offer Conte the opportunity to build a new BBC around Skriniar, De Vrij and Godin while Milan would give him a clean slate to build open like when he first joined Juventus as a manager

 Genoa-Empoli Campionato Serie A Tim 2014-2015

Gian Piero Gasperini

 

Atalanta is the best story line in Serie A this season so it’s not surprising to see their manager getting a lot of buzz. Despite starting three center backs, Gasperini plays a free flowing offensive style with a team that runs much more than your average Serie A club, the only knock on him is the uncertainty on him continuing this success at a bigger club after failing during a brief stay at Inter (you could also point to the fact many of his former players have struggled after moving to a larger stage). Should Atalanta make it to the Champions League, Gasperini may decide to just stay but he could be an attractive fallback option for both Roma and Milan.

 Di Francesco

Eusebio Di Francesco

 

On one hand the former Sassuolo manager’s stock rose a bit because it became pretty obvious Monchi was the person most responsible for Roma’s struggles this season, but on the other his replacement Claudio Ranieri has fixed the defense and made Roma more consistent. Di Francesco could be a fallback option for Milan or a good replacement for Gasperini should he move on from Atalanta- in addition Sampdoria could be an option should they decide to make a change from Giampaolo. If you were trying to sell Di Francesco stock you could still point to his success in Europe since he did get Roma out of the group stage in the Champions League for two years in a row and the fact he did launch Under and Zaniolo.

 

Sinisa Mihajlovic

 

After a very brief experience at Sporting, the former Milan manager completely turned around Bologna’s season after replacing Pippo Inzaghi and could parlay this success into a bigger job while knowing he has a great fallback plan by staying put. Should Ferrero keep Sampdoria, he could be tempted by idea of a reunion with his former manager after recently describing him as “the best in the world”

Marco Giampaolo

 

While Mihajlovic’s stock is way up in recent weeks, the opposite can be said for Sampdoria’s current manager. Ironically the blucerchiati’s heavy loss to Bologna a few weeks ago was arguably the lowest point of their season, it caused sporting director’s Walter Sabatini’s abrupt resignation- things didn’t get better last weekend since Samp also at home to Lazio. Considering that there were already questions marks on Giampaolo’s ability to handle stress after an odd situation at Brescia a few years ago, it’s likely that this recent collapse takes job such as Milan and Roma off the table.

 

Roberto D’Aversa

 

While Parma was one of the best story lines in Serie A in the first half of the season, once they were essentially safe from relegation they became pretty anonymous.  But make no mistake about it, never being in danger of going back to Serie B is quite the achievement for any newly promoted team. But considering how many more established managers are available on the market, D’Aversa is likely to stay put next season.

 

 De Zerbi

 

Roberto De Zerbi

 

While D’Aversa is an old school catenaccio type coach, De Zerbi has been making a name for himself as a great offensive mind dating back to his days at Foggia. Sassuolo have had a very solid season despite selling one of their best players in January in Boateng and De Zerbi could be an excellent option for Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Atalanta- all clubs known for valuing attractive football- in the near future.

 

Stefano Pioli

On the bright side, Fiorentina haven’t been any better since Vincenzo Montella replaced him, but it’s hard to argue that Pioli’s stock has improved since he was let go at Inter. At this point, Pioli looks like the type of manager who will be one of the first to be called during the season when a club decides to sack their current manager.

 

Davide Ballardini

 

Speaking of managers sacked during the season, arguably the most puzzling decision in recent months was Preziosi’s decision to sack Ballardini after he had launched Piatek on his way to the upper table in Serie A. Since then, Genoa have replaced Ballardini’s successor Juric with Prandelli, who is now also on the hot seat. Look for Genoa’s president to swallow his pride and bring back Ballardini sooner rather than later since he’s still under contract.

Where would Conte fit best next season?

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Everything is breaking his way. His successor at his former club gets routinely mocked at home matches making his previous tenure look better in retrospect and there are potentially many openings at the top clubs in his home country. In many ways it’s hard to imagine Antonio Conte’s sabbatical season going any better when it comes to how he’s perceived and where he could go next.

Conte certainly has the qualities that many of the top teams with an expected coaching vacancy are looking for- he has a long track record of getting clubs back on track dating back to his time before he became Juventus’ manager and he knows both Serie A and the Italian media very well. 

But where does it make more sense for him to go next should he decide to return to Italy? Let’s look at the potential fits and likelihood the job will be available in the first place

 

Juventus

 

The last two managers to win the Champions League with the bianconeri, Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi, both eventually returned to the club despite leaving Turin to go coach bitter rivals Inter. While Conte at least went to the national team and then abroad, it doesn’t feel like this is the right time for him to go back to Juventus. 

For one Max Allegri keeps saying he wants to be the Bianconeri’s version of Sir Alex Ferguson, and secondly the club seems more interested in keeping him after the impressive second leg against Atletico Madrid (but an elimination against underdog Ajax may change that). But even if Allegri leaves, it doesn’t feel like there’s much of an appetite for another defensive manager, especially one who unlike the current manager has yet to fully excel in the Champions League- the trophy the club is mainly focused on.

Likelihood job is available: 25 percent

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Inter

 

While having Beppe Marotta as the CEO isn’t necessarily a distinct advantage for the nerazzurri considering the rocky relationship between the two at Juventus, this is Conte’s likeliest destination. With Suning’s financial stability and the Financial Fair Play restrictions about to end, Conte would be able to count on the support in the transfer market he consistently craves.

Inter have already signed Diego Godin on a Bosman which would give Conte a new version of the BBC assuming Milan Skriniar stays alongside De Vrij- an outcome that seems rather likely. Should he follow in Trapattoni and Lippi’s footsteps, Conte wouldn’t have to go through a significant rebuild like at Roma and Milan or face huge expectations like winning the Champions League at Juventus. 

While Spalletti has a good chance of qualifying for the Champions League for a second season in a row and has a long term contract, he has openly clashed with Marotta over Icardi and Perisic and his hand picked addition Nainggolan has so far been a significant bust. Spalletti looks to have overstayed his welcome.

 

Likelihood job is available: 60 percent

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Milan

 

Before the derby against Inter, Gattuso looked to have earned the opportunity to start next season as Milan’s manager- but a recent streak of disappointing results, coupled with an uninspired offensive system have changed that perspective.

By joining the Rossoneri, Conte wouldn’t be able to expect significant additions via the transfer market because of Financial Fair Play and his style of play isn’t exactly in line with the club’s DNA. On the plus side, Conte is the master of taking clubs from A to B and he would have the opportunity to build the team in his image.

 

Likelihood job is available: 50 percent

Roma

 

The giallorossi are the likeliest to have a job opening as even if Claudio Ranieri were to able to get the team to the Champions League, there’s a chance he would step aside to give a chance to a younger manager to help his beloved Roma.

At Roma, regardless if they make the Champions League or not, Conte would face an even bigger rebuild than at Milan. As someone who has openly complained about the transfer moves of his employers, you don’t need much of an imagination to picture how he would react to the departure of players like Manolas. In addition Conte has become one of the highest paid managers at his recent jobs and it’s hard to envision Roma being able to pay him in line with his previous earnings.

Likelihood job is available: 85 percent

Florentino Perez listens to players and appoints Santiago Solari as Real Madrid coach

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Santiago Solari was named as the new Real Madrid manager this week, and the news will be a relief for the players.Solari has signed a 3 year contract with his former club and has also fought off stiff competition to land the job. Both Antonio Conte and Roberto Martinez were in the running to take over from the sacked Julen Lopetegui but Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has given the chance to Solari. So what gives and why did Perez not go for more experience?

The truth is that the players especially Sergio Ramos had voiced their disagreement in landing Conte as manager. His quote earlier this month that you have to earn respect to achieve it in regards of Conte being drafted in didn’t sit too well. Ramos and other influential players didn’t like the thought of Conte taking over the hot seat, and yes player power is evident once again. But whilst in the past Perez would have brushed off such antics, he listened and talks broke down.

There was also talk of bringing in former Everton manager Roberto Martinez, who would not have got a look in if still at the Premier League side. But his reputation has mostly been built on this summers World Cup, where his Belgian side reached the semi finals before losing narrowly against France who would eventually go on to win the trophy. There was a feeling that the players were more happier to receive Martinez than Perez was. However with Conte out of the picture, both Perez and the players broke even and Martinez was also ruled out. This left Solari who had been moved up from youth coach as a temporary figure head until the club could find someone.

However sometimes the answer or in Madrid’s case remedy is staring you in the face and Solari an ex player who has the respect of the current squad was given the job full time. With new managerial talks hitting a dead end, Perez also had the laws of the Spanish FA bearing down on him, given that clubs cannot have a caretaker manager for more than two weeks. In one way Solari has the job through default but in another perhaps he has earned it.

Since taking over from the ill fated Lopetegui, Solari has presided over 4 games and the club have won all 4. In his youth management Solari only managed a win rate of 37%, but he has got off to the best possible start with Madrid. The one important factor is that the players are their happiest they have been all season, that as Solari knows only to well can go a long way.

Real Madrid are still recovering from the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo, and this season was always going to be a transitiona one. But perhaps Solari can add the reignited spark that Los Blanco’s so ever need.

Should Real Madrid focus on the short or long term after Julen Lopetegui?

139 days. 14 games. That’s all Julen Lopetegui lasted as manager of Real Madrid following his dismissal on Monday. His reign seemed doomed from the very moment it started, such was the controversy around his arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu. Few believed he would last long in the Spanish capital and so it proved.

Now, Real Madrid are charged with finding a replacement. Antonio Conte had been considered the frontrunner, but now it seems that the Italian has ruled himself out of the running for the vacancy. Jose Mourinho is another who has been mentioned, but the Portuguese is tied to a lucrative contract at Manchester United.

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There is a real lack of potential candidates, hence why B team coach Santiago Solari has been promoted to the position for the time being. Once the most desirable job in management, now Real Madrid is seen to be such a poisoned chalice it is scaring coaches away.

Conte would be a short-term fix, but an effective one given his track record at getting the best out of ageing stars and big egos. He entered a similar situation at Chelsea, tasked with cleaning up after Mourinho, and he did that by winning the title in his first season in the Premier League.

Others, like Mauricio Pochettino, would be an appointment with the long-term in mind. Real Madrid are now faced with this existential question – do they prioritise the short-term over the long-term? Would someone like Pochettino be given the time to get across his ideas and methods as a coach?

This is a Real Madrid side coming to the end of a glorious generation, with players like Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and even Sergio Ramos entering the twilight of their careers. And so if they are to stay at the top of the European and Spanish game, a transition must be managed.

Lopetegui failed to do this, as demonstrated by the performance of his big names in the 5-1 thumping at the hands of Barcelona on Sunday. The next guy in the job, whoever that may be, must handle it better, somehow striking a balance between eking more out of players like Benzema, Modric and Ramos while planning for the future.

Of course, no single managerial appointment will be enough to address the problems that exist at the Santiago Bernabeu right now. Real Madrid are struggling to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane, with the European champions lacking an identity as a team right now. Lopetegui wanted his side to be a possession-based outfit, but abandoned that idea after just a few weeks.

Real Madrid are a club who now find themselves stuck between the short-term and the long-term, between the old and the young, and now between managers. As long as they’re in that position, they’re standing still.

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Real Madrid edge closer to Conte appointment

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Real Madrid are set to announce Antonio Conte as their new boss in the coming days, in the wake of their 5-1 La Liga thrashing away at Barcelona last weekend.

That defeat at the Camp Nou is likely to be the death knell for Julen Lopetegui as manager of the 2017-18 Champions League winners, with his departure in the offing.

Club President Florentino Perez, famous for his ruthlessness and lack of patience with managers, is set to confirm Lopetegui’s departure before the end of the week.

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Abramovich must make decision on Chelsea future quickly

abramovich2When Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea in 2003 it was believed to be a hobby for him. Fast forward 15 years and after securing a few Premier League titles and cup triumphs the 51-year-old is believed to be considering selling the club and moving on to pastures new. Whether this would be the right approach for him on a personal (or a business) level is something only he can decide, but Blues fans will likely be hoping that he opts to remain in charge at Stamford Bridge. He has transformed the shape and future of Chelsea Football Club during his ownership, bringing in several world-class players and delivering a standard of football which had long since been desired among the terraces.

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Eden Hazard hints he could leave Chelsea this summer

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Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard has hinted that the time may be right to leave west London and seek a new challenge. The 27-year-old has enjoyed a wonderful World Cup in Russia with his native Belgium, helping them achieve their best-ever finish of third after beating England 2-0 in St Petersburg on Saturday. With a little bit of time off now before joining up with the Chelsea squad for their pre-season, Hazard has left the door open on where he may be playing his football this coming campaign. There has of course been some upheaval at Stamford Bridge during the tournament, with Antonio Conte having been sacked and replaced with fellow Italian Maurizio Sarri – and that uncertainty seems to have opened the door on a prospective move.

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