Antonio Conte confirms he didn’t want to leave Italy for Chelsea in 2016. “We were all crying, because we knew we’d no longer see each other every day.”
The current Inter Coach spoke on stage at the Festival dello Sport event in Trento this afternoon.
“I feel that wearing the Azzurri jersey is a dream come true and when you stand there listening to the national anthem, it’s a unique sensation, because it means you have reached that level,” said the former Nazionale boss.
“I represented Italy as both player and Coach. Being the manager does provide enormous responsibility. You can feel an entire nation behind you, hoping and pushing you on. I think I was very fortunate to be both Coach and player for Italy.”
Conte took the Azzurri to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals, a team known more for its passion and unity than any particular talents.
“I remember we worked together for three-and-a-half weeks, which was the most important thing, as we formed a group where each player was ready to give his life for his teammate.
“We defeated Spain 2-0, they had been unbeaten for a long time, becoming world and European champions. It was a great match, because despite the lack of quality in the squad, we found 23 men who were happy to work together and help each other out.
“What remains in that experience for me is the phrase ‘You can do anything you put your mind to’ and in that year, we all wanted to so much.
“I remember the day before saying goodbye, we were all crying, because we knew that from the day after, we’d no longer see each other every day.
“We wouldn’t have beaten teams like Belgium or Spain unless we had genuine values. It was an emotional experience and if I hadn’t already signed for Chelsea, I would certainly have continued working with the Nazionale, because we created a real union with the lads and it’s tough to leave that behind.”
Conte has been known more as a motivator than a tactician, so how did he get the Azzurri so fired up?
“I remember before the meeting with Spain, the media all assumed we were done for, that we had no chance at all. During the Press conference, I said clearly that Spain would need to work hard to break us down and really prove they were worthy.
“Spain had won so much for years, so beating them gave us immense joy and even further belief in our capability.”