Friday January 17 2014
‘Roma, Napoli won’t let us relax’

Antonio Conte admits that Roma and Napoli’s transfer work this month means he cannot relax in the second half of the season with Juventus.

The Bianconeri are on a club record run of 11 straight League wins and lead Serie A by eight points, but are not expected to take any action in this month’s window, in stark comparison to Roma in second and Napoli in third.

“Do I agree with our strategy this market? I think there is nothing for me to answer, partly because those who have had to respond, have. So, I look to the director general [Beppe Marotta]’s response,”   mused Conte to reporters today.

“As I say, I am the Coach and so I try to coach the players that the club make available to me.

“The fact that our rivals, in spite of having achieved something extraordinary - I repeat, Roma and Napoli have reached record points tallies - are reinforcing further, it definitely leaves me unable to relax, because we have to keep up an extraordinary pace to maintain our position.

“That they are reinforcing is certainly not a positive thing. I also see the second half of the season as a busy schedule and therefore we must hold a lot of attention.

“Because, whilst I read that only we can lose the Scudetto, or that the title is already Juve’s, I believe that this is said by those who have never won anything in their life.

“It is why winning is always very difficult, even when you are eight points ahead with seven weeks until the end. That has happened to me in losing and winning title races.”

Conte was asked if he looked at Napoli in particular with envy, from the summer being able to reinvest €60m taken from Edinson Cavani back into their team, and if something similar could be achieved for Juve in selling Paul Pogba next summer.

“First, I would not have €60m ‘available to me’, otherwise who knows where I would be (laughs). And as I have said, this is a question for our director general [Beppe Marotta], for the club, on possible strategies.

“I really like to talk about football, so it is right that the market is handled by the director and the club.”

The Coach was also asked about team selection this weekend and if the following midweek’s Coppa Italia clash with Roma would affect his thinking.

“You know very well that we look from game to game, so for us the crucial match is against Sampdoria, because they are next and because we are going to face a team that is in great health, has energy, has spirit.

“I believe that Mihajlovic is doing a great job, so we will have the utmost attention on this game. I am convinced also that tomorrow will not be a stroll for us, especially if we are not preparing for it in the right way.

“And then our choices will be made according to the commitment and the importance of that commitment.”

The 44-year-old reflected on Juve’s record-breaking first half to the season, which has seen them drop only five points all term.

“I think we have produced an amazing first round, amazing from all points of view. On the one hand because of the uniqueness in our numbers and also for the numbers of our direct rivals, such as Roma and Napoli, who have practically reached record points totals too.

“Seeing their extraordinary seasons, we realise even more the extraordinary nature of what we have done in the first round. And I think it will be difficult, very, very difficult, to repeat.

“Let’s say that it’s okay. I can’t think of another first round where a team has won 17, drawn one and lost one. I repeat, it will be very difficult to repeat such a situation in the future for Juventus or any other team.

“Is there the desire to maintain the mood, as well as the form? I think that in these two-and-a-half years we have had an important journey with Juventus, with the work we have done we have been able to bring everyone together to a high level and this has become a coveted team.

“Footballers, perhaps three years ago, stuck up their nose a little when they were asked to come and Juventus were not even in the Europa League.

“Today the scenario has changed completely. And this demonstrates that we have done important work beyond the victories that have been achieved.”

Alex Del Piero hinted this week of a return to Juventus in the future in some capacity.

“I am convinced that he wants to continue playing, he still wants to train, wants to still be the protagonists. Then, I can only talk of Ale in an enthusiastic way. He, along with [Gigi] Buffon, were the two players with whom I played with and were the two that helped in an important way when I arrived at Juventus, at their own level, in the dressing room.

“So, he was an important factor in our firs Scudetto. I think he has the characteristics as someone who can do anything anywhere that he is willing to do it, even as a Coach.

“I do not rule out the fact that he could one day be a Coach.”