At a glance you won’t notice too much as different on the Juventus bench next season. Stocky in build, dark tanned skin and closely cropped hair with piercing eyes, Massimo Carrera may not be Antonio Conte, but in appearance he is almost as close as Juve could get to a temporary fix.
More importantly, he is the man expected to be Conte’s eyes and ears on the touchline this season, for as long as is needed as Conte fights the 10-month ban handed to him on Friday morning from the Disciplinary Commission that examined his alleged role in the betting scandal.
Last week’s friendly against Malaga provided a brief glimpse into the Bianconeri’s plan B for 2012-13, as will Saturday’s Super Cup clash with Napoli, with Conte sitting in the stands alongside assistant Angelo Alessio, who is also facing an eight-month suspension.
On the touchline will be the calmer figure of Carrera, alongside highly-rated goalkeeping Coach Claudio Filippi, with the anticipation that during the season this duo, and Carrera in particular, will be relaying instructions from Conte, if not live at least pre-prepared.
Conte, a man who has more than once spoken of his training methods as leaving little to chance and creating a side that he can almost ‘remote control’, will as literally as possible be able to put that to the test this season with Carrera the antenna to transmit out his instructions.
Carrera may not have the coaching experience that Juve could have turned to in this unique situation they now find themselves in, nor anything like the similarly explosive nature of Conte to intensely drive the players through 90 minutes. However, he carries the club’s trust and also that of Conte, with the pair known to be close friends, even if in character they are described as sharp opposites.
The 48-year-old, like Conte, was a member of Marcello Lippi’s Bianconeri in the early 1990s and even arrived at the club the same year as the current Juve boss. He served as a defender for five seasons in Turin, as part of a remarkably long 26-year playing career that only ended in 2008 with Pro Vercelli at the age of 44.
Since June 2009 he has been back with Juventus, overseeing youth development in the official capacity of technical director. Since Andrea Agnelli, Beppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici’s increased focus on this aspect of club development following their respective arrivals soon after, Carrera has been in a position that has grown in respect and prominence from within the club. It is also a role that saw him in regular contact with Conte during last season.
“I experienced every day for the past year working with him, so I do not have a problem replacing him,” Carrera told the gathered media hours after news of Conte’s ban was confirmed. He was talking sat in Conte’s seat at the Press conference and about taking his seat on the bench.
“I’ll try to give advice to the players near the bench, but not on my own initiative, only as a consequence of what we do every day.
“Am I worried? I’ll be sitting on the bench of the Italian champions, I defy anybody to be. We talk about football and I’ve been in it for 40 years…”
Not a well-known name nor notably energetic in his styling, Juve’s choice for Carrera may not immediately suggest a sense of continuity, beyond his comparable physical appearance to Conte. From a technical viewpoint he has minimal coaching experience, even if his extensive and much travelled years as a player counts for something.
Yet, for what he offers Conte, the club and the players, his more conservative nature, coupled with his familiarity around the club may make him the calming presence that is needed in what is otherwise going to be an unsettling situation.
Carrera may not have been the first name to have come to many a Juventus fan’s mind to step in, but as a buffer to all that Conte can be, having known him for 20 years, Carrera may be the only man capable of conveying Conte’s instructions next season. As if by remote control, so the Coach will hope.