Ten years ago, Juventus were coming from two successive seventh place finishes in Serie A with Andrea Agnelli settling on Antonio Conte, a die-hard Juventus fan and a legend of the club, to return the Old Lady winning ways.
Of course, Conte couldn’t do it all on his own. Juventus signed Andrea Pirlo as a free agent from Milan and Arturo Vidal for €10m from Bayer Leverkusen.
Nobody expected Juventus to win the Scudetto ahead of Max Allegri’s Milan who could count on the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, just to name a few.
Possibly, the developments of the following ten years were even less predictable. The Bianconeri have won nine Serie A titles in a row, the first three with the current Inter coach in charge.
His relationship with Juventus collapsed after his third season at the club. Conte resigned on the second day of the pre-season in the 2014-15 campaign. He was convinced he couldn’t do any better with that team and he feared the club could not complete with the best European clubs in terms of investment.
His famous statement “You can’t eat in a €100 restaurant with €10” perfectly explained his feelings.
Max Allegri proved him wrong in his first season at the club. The Livorno-born coach won a domestic double and earned a spot in the Champions League final for the first time in 12 years. That was the last game of Pirlo in a Juventus shirt.
The Old Lady lost 3-1 against Barcelona in Berlin, but their achievement remained impressive, considering Conte had been eliminated from Champions League the group stage in the previous campaign and failed to access the Europa League final that would have been played at the Juventus Stadium.
Conte never fixed his relationship with Andrea Agnelli who vetoed his possible return in the following campaigns.
His appointment as Inter coach in 2019, didn’t come as a surprise as he reunited with the former Juventus director Beppe Marotta, who also shockingly left Turin in 2018, only a few months after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, an operation he hadn’t completely backed.
Their No.1 target has always been very clear: destroy what they’ve contributed to create.
Inter will have a chance to do it on Sunday, when they host Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. A scenario that 10 years ago would be even less predictable than Juventus’ first Scudetto under Conte.
The Nerazzurri sit second in the Serie A table and are enjoying a four-point lead over the Bianconeri, who have one game in hand.
Pirlo considers Conte one of his role models. “The teams of [Pep] Guardiola, [Carlo] Ancelotti and [Antonio] Conte left a big impression on me, but only to use as a prompt, I have no desire to copy and paste. I have my own ideas and I will take them forward,” ‘Il Maestro’ wrote in his thesis to obtain the UEFA PRO coaching license back in September.
When he was on the pitch, Pirlo used the be the ‘Maestro’ the ‘Master’, but in coaching terms he is still a student, having only just begun his career on the bench.
Ten years ago, neither him nor Conte would imagine such scenario. In all honesty, nobody could see that coming, even just one year ago.
Pirlo’s appointment last summer did come as a big surprise instead as he had been appointed as the new head coach of Juventus’ Under 23 squad only a few days earlier.
Conte is still a very young coach, but his ideas and methods have been crucial for Pirlo’s development as a coach.
Nevertheless, these Juventus and Inter sides could not be more different.
Conte doesn’t mind when Inter sit deep and try to score on counter attacks, while Pirlo wants his players to press high and regain possession as quickly as possible. They both use a three-man defence even if Juventus turn to a 4-4-2 system when defending. It must be said their style is also being defined by their strikers.
Romelu Lukaku’s presence up front allows Inter to use long balls to ease the opponents’ pressure, while having Cristiano Ronaldo cutting inside from the left is always a dangerous weapon Juventus can use. Not only because the Portuguese star can create troubles at any time, but also because he would attract the opponents’ defenders leaving his teammates freer to receive the ball.
Giorgio Chiellini has insisted the game between Inter and Juventus won’t be decisive, but the impression is that the losing side could suffer a huge set back in their title hopes, especially because neither of them are the table leaders.
Milan will be facing Cagliari on Monday after the Meazza clash and ironically Stefano Pioli’s side seem the most similar team to that brilliant Conte’s Juventus side that won the first of a long series of Serie A titles in a row.
Beating Juventus, however, could be the first step to put an end to the Old Lady’s dominant decade.