On the morning of May 17, 2014, at Juventus’ Vinovo headquarters, everyone was happy. The club won the Scudetto even though the Serie A season was not over yet. Juventus has a record score: 99 points.
The next day, the final game of the season will take place at home against Cagliari. Conte wants the team to pass the 100-point mark, he told his associates: “We have to go down in history, no team has ever won more than 100 points in Italy…”
Attack the players mercilessly
“Guys, see you in the video room to study the schematics,” Conte began that morning with a phrase that had been heard a thousand times in Vinovo. Almost all of the players were present when Conte entered, except for captain Gianluigi Buffon, who had never left the club since Juve were demoted to Serie B. He appeared seconds later, accompanied by the General. Director Giuseppe Marotta.
“Sir, excuse me for a moment, the director wants to clarify the issue of bonuses for the team after winning the Scudetto,” Buffon told Conte. It all started to fall apart in that 50 square meter. Conte shouted: “You broke me! It’s broken, get it? And now all can get out of here. Out, I don’t want to see you anymore. Get out, I say!”
The room was silent. It was a courtroom, and Conte was the sole judge in front of a team that didn’t know what they were guilty of.
“Shut up Gigi, don’t say another word. Don’t make me repeat myself. I never expected it from your mouth. Bonus? Think of yourself, you bastards…”
No one allows me to laugh, even if someone wants to. That would be the worst thing to do, an unforgivable insult. “And now,” Conte shouted. “Everybody went to the training ground, there was no video. Go out. Don’t you understand?”
There was silence, too, so that everyone could hear Conte’s still very small voice, as he told himself. “What a shame,” he repeated the words over and over as he stepped outside. Shy? With a team that just won the Serie A for the third time in a row?
In fact, Conte was obsessed with getting over 100 points all week before. Maybe many people will remember the third consecutive championship title, but the history books will talk about 102 points, and in his eyes, that is a huge difference.
Buffon showed up at the wrong time. Or very timely considering Conte’s side. If Buffon is not present with Marotta then Conte will also find other excuses to attack his players. Marotta was the architect of Juve’s rebirth, turning on his heel in Conte’s fury. He knew he shouldn’t have stayed any longer.
Conte chooses to attack his players so they don’t give in to complacency. As he attacked them many times in previous seasons. Buffon is always chosen as the first target for Conte’s anger, because Buffon is the biggest senior in the team.
“I’m fine playing the role of a target, also because Conte’s way of looking and thinking about football is very similar to mine. I will also use certain tricks to make the team perform at its best. We were also teammates at Juve, but at the time, I was his first fake enemy,” Buffon explained. Juve beat Cagliari 3-0 the next afternoon, hitting a goal of 102 points.
Obsessed with work, victories and details
Andrea Pirlo once wrote in her autobiography: “If I could go back in time, there’s only one thing I wouldn’t do: take a seat next to Buffon at the entrance to the dressing room at the Juventus Arena. It’s the most dangerous place in Turin, especially at halftime. Conte came in and, even when we were winning, he threw against the wall – and therefore into my corner – everything he could find, plastic bottles, pens, towels… He was never satisfied, always there’s a detail that doesn’t suit him.”
“I consider failure a state of definite death” is the phrase most used by Conte. A phrase repeated hundreds of times, in a dressing room or in front of an audience of journalists. Conte is obsessed with winning, like Jose Mourinho. And from one obsession leads to another: to work hard to win.
Conte especially loves videos. The average coach sits in front of the big screen twice a week: once the day after the game, the other 48 hours before the next game. Conte uses videos with the players all week. Industry experts argue that a video session should not exceed 15 minutes. Beyond that threshold, the player’s attention level will drop. With Conte, they rarely last less than 30 minutes, sometimes exceeding an hour.
Play, stop, fast forward, rewind, rewind, rewind. Stop, play. Stop. Play again. Again. Franco Vázquez, the Palermo striker who was called up to Italy by Conte in 2015, fell asleep during the video hour. “Do things always go like this?” he asked. His reply was a shrug. After two matches with Italy, Vazquez moved to play for the Argentina national team.
Talking to Conte is a complicated exercise, because he is always watching you, finding out what is hidden in the conversation. Study the other person as an opponent, treat the conversation like a match, to find the appropriate defense, attack, and counterattack in the conversation. Conte is obsessed with details, sometimes looking for an enemy even when it doesn’t exist
Conte checked every semicolon in his interview. It is a sign of a very vulnerable person. But arguably, Conte believes communication is not only to convey ideas, thoughts, but also to convey a certain kind of image.
On September 1, 2014, in Rome, TV beauty Ludovica Caramis got married. The groom is Mattia Destro, striker of AS Roma. All in all, the wedding ceremony at the church, the wedding reception at the restaurant, is wrapped up in just one day. Someone said that, in the moment of taking the oath at the church, the groom half smiled when he thought briefly of the national team coach.
Destro can only have one wedding night at home. At 5 am the next morning, he had to get up, drive to meet with the national team in Coverciano. He was on the list of 27 players called up for the friendly against the Netherlands on September 4, and the Euro qualifier against Norway five days later.
Those were Conte’s first matches as Italy coach. Destro is completely free to marry, except for honeymoon. He knew when the sheets were still crumpled, he had to leave, that’s the reason for the half smile. Conte never gave anyone any favors or exceptions.
An associate of Conte explained later, if Destro was scheduled to get married after the matches with the Netherlands and Norway, but not before, he would not have been called up by Conte for the national team. It’s strange?
“Conte has his own way of thinking. If Destro gets married, he will fully focus on the national team. And when he hasn’t finished the marriage ceremony, he will go to the national team with worries. Unconsciously, he will think of the wedding guests more than his opponents. Not focused when preparing for the game, not clear when on the field, and making mistakes. Not giving his all to what he is doing is one of the sins that Conte is hard to forgive. Prevention is better than cure”.
Chinh Phong | 16:00 April 29, 2023