Conte: Great commitment
Antonio Conte was impressed with the way his players put the disappointment of missing out on the Champions League out of their mind to finish the season with a trophy.
Antonio Conte is the fifth Italian to manage Chelsea, following on from Gianluca Vialli, Claudio Ranieri, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo. In common with the first three of those names, he was formerly at Juventus, in his case as both a player and a manager.
Having played more than 400 games for the Italian giants, Conte’s three years in charge of the team between 2011 and 2014 yielded three straight Serie A titles - Juventus’s first league championships in eight years and their first three-in-a-row since the early 1930s. They had finished seventh the two seasons prior to Conte.
The Bianconeri also won two Italian Super Cups with him in charge. Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal were among his signings during a spell so productive he was named Serie A Coach of the Year in all three seasons there.
As a player, Conte was a versatile, energetic box-to-box midfielder. He was a Champions League winner as part of the side Vialli captained to a final win over Ajax in 1996. He played in two other finals of that competition and in a convincing win over Borussia Dortmund in the 1993 UEFA Cup final.
He was also a five-time Serie A winner in his 13 seasons as an integral member of the Juve squad. He played for just two clubs having begun his career with his home-town team Lecce in southern Italy.
Conte began his managerial career in 2006 in the Italian lower divisions at Arezzo and Bari, winning promotion to the top flight with the latter, and was briefly employed by Atalanta before he further enhanced his reputation by guiding Siena into Serie A.
That was the cue for Juventus to come calling for their former player, as did the Italy national team three years later when they handed him control of the Azzurri in 2014. He had played 20 times for his country including a semi-final appearance in the 1994 World Cup and a quarter-final of Euro 2000.
Under Conte’s management, Italy qualified for Euro 2016 undefeated in their 10 games. They impressed at the finals, beating Belgium 2-0 in their opening match, which was followed by a 1-0 win over Sweden.
Having progressed to the knockout stages as group winners Italy were handed a tricky tie against holders Spain, but a wonderful collective display saw them run out 2-0 winners, before they were cruelly eliminated in the quarter-finals on penalties by Germany.
Conte’s coaching has been characterised by tactical flexibility and he achieved the remarkable feat of an unbeaten league season at Juventus, becoming only the third Serie A team to do so. Impressively, that was in his first season in charge (2011/12) and in 2013/14 the ‘Old Lady’ recorded an all-time Serie A record of 102 points.
In the 2012/13 campaign, Juventus played Chelsea in the Champions League group stage, drawing 2-2 at Stamford Bridge and winning 3-0 in Turin. They went on to the quarter-finals where they lost to eventual winners Bayern Munich.
In Conte’s three years as Juventus manager, they lost only two home league games, contributing greatly to their new stadium being considered such a success.
At Chelsea, Conte amassed more points by the halfway stage of 2016/17 than any Chelsea manager had in his first season at the club. Included in that were 13 straight league wins in a row which equalled the best by any English top-flight team in a single season. It earned the Italian the Premier League Manager of the Month awards for October, November and December. No one had won three of those in succession before.
The Italian became the third Chelsea manager to lead his side to the Premier League title in his first season in England with the Blues, who had topped the table since November, sealing the championship courtesy of a 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion on 12 May. Conte also guided us to the FA Cup final following a 4-2 win over Tottenham at Wembley in the last four.
He was rewarded for an outstanding first season at the club by being named LMA Manager of the Year and Premier League Manager of the Season a day after his team had been presented with the trophy at Stamford Bridge following our final game against Sunderland.
In July 2017, it was announced Conte had signed a new two-year contract and although the season that followed did not match up to the previous one when it came to Premier League performance, with the Blues finishing fifth, the Italian and his side ended it with another trophy, this time the FA Cup won with a strong tactical performance against Manchester United in the final. In the Champions League, we made it through the group stage before being knocked out by Barcelona.