Antonio Conte sniped at Massimiliano Allegri after Juventus beat Milan to the Scudetto, but admits he “never had doubts” on his management skills.
“The other day when we resumed training I was watching the players warming up and thought to myself: ‘I am the Coach who won the Scudetto.’ It was a nice sensation,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“After that I thought: ‘You proved that you deserved the chance you were given here.’ To be perfectly honest, I never had doubts on that. A few years ago I said something that might’ve been considered presumptuous, saying ‘if in four to five years I haven’t started training a big club, I’ll dedicate myself to staying home with my family.’
“I felt that I would return to Juventus. When I hung up my boots, I knew it would be ‘until I see you again’ rather than a ‘goodbye.’ I came back and I’m glad what I felt then has come true, even if I must admit the reality surpassed the fantasy.”
Conte admits the passion of the fans has surprised him this week after a six-year wait for silverware.
“It’s fun walking down the street in Turin and seeing people hit the brakes in the middle of the road so they can get out of their cars, hug you, cry and thank you for everything.
“There were difficult moments, especially as we mustn’t forget we didn’t start out to win the title. The toughest was when we were -4 and -7 from Milan before difficult games against Fiorentina and Inter.
“I also remember hearing Allegri say in a press conference that Milan would secure their second ‘star’ on the jerseys. At that moment I thought: ‘Damn, they really are convinced they can win the Scudetto.’
“I have no regrets, not even my rant after the Parma game. My statements were emphasised because, if we look back over the campaign, all the clubs complained about refereeing errors at one point. All we did was ask for fair treatment. We never said ‘the referee got it wrong.’
“At that moment I felt the duty to say that, but the media tore us apart because it seemed as if we shouldn’t speak up. No, everyone talks and so Juventus can talk too.
“It’s not that we didn’t believe in the system, it’s because the statistics and facts took us to those conclusions. There was an incredible reaction as if we ‘of all people’ shouldn’t be talking about penalties. No, I speak up if I see something wrong that goes against my team.”
In particular, the controversy reached a peak after Sulley Ali Muntari’s shot crossed the line without being seen by officials in the 1-1 draw with Milan.
“I’d say what happened on the pitch did the talking,” replied Conte. “We won eight of our last nine games, proving this didn’t manage to put us off our stride. I always said the best team would win over the course of a season, the most consistent, organised and who played the better football. I think Juventus proved they were superior to Milan in those terms.”
Conte also received some complaints from fans after giving Alessandro Del Piero little playing time in his final season.
“He seems to me a player concentrated to an extraordinary degree on the present. That proved to be an added value for him and for us, especially when the campaign got to its key stages and we needed the magic moments of a champion. He was there, just as he is now and will be in the remaining games where we aim to remain unbeaten and win the Coppa Italia.
“I always saw him as a player who could resolve problems. I was often criticised for giving him only a handful of minutes, but I always called when he was needed, whether it was a minute, 30 seconds or the whole match.
“Del Piero, Gigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo are the three champions who contributed to the exponential growth of this squad. They had to feel central to the project and all I did was put that responsibility on their shoulders.
“I spoke to Buffon and Del Piero before anyone else and said they needed to help me more than the others, because I was going to be ferocious with them. And they helped me a great deal.”