Antonio Conte doesn’t have to wait for Atalanta to start celebrating the Scudetto, describing the common issues he experienced starting winning eras at Juventus and Inter. ‘I really challenged myself this time.’
It was tougher than expected to get past virtually relegated Crotone at the Stadio Scida, but a deflected Christian Eriksen strike and stoppage-time Achraf Hakimi counter proved enough.
“I think our campaign comes from a constant growth from the team in every area, including mentality, the sharing of a vision and experiencing it intensely. Now those who play or are on the bench, they have still formed a team made of granite.
“We know that we can remain in the history of Inter, because we are effectively bringing down a nine-year reign. This is satisfying and the players deserve congratulations,” Conte told Sky Sport Italia.
Now the Scudetto could be mathematically secured tomorrow if Atalanta fail to beat Sassuolo, but in any case they only need one more point from four rounds. However, they won’t gather at the training ground to watch it together.
“I had told the lads after the Verona game they’d have a day off and they will tomorrow too. We need to spend time with our families, as it has been an intense time.
“We know that we’re on the verge and are quite relaxed about it. I don’t think it’s right to depend on someone else, so we’ve got such a big gap that we know it’s all our own work and we don’t have to thank anyone for a result. It’s all still in our hands.”
Since November 22, the Nerazzurri have racked up 22 wins, four draws and only one defeat to Sampdoria, picking up 10 more points than they had at this stage last season.
“We needed to go through this journey in order to win and be considered winners. There are sacrifices to be made, a culture to be developed, and at times giving up so much in order to achieve something extraordinary,” continued Conte.
“Not everyone is prepared to do that. I found many lads here who all wanted to get on the same boat and work together to become part of Inter history. I told the lads, if you win, then you’ll be in the history of this club. If you don’t, then you can spend three, seven or more years here and be just one of the many.
“I didn’t have to convince them very hard, they were already on board.”
Conte was asked if it was more difficult to win at Inter or to begin the winning era at Juventus.
“They were both very difficult situations. I remember that I went to Juventus after gaining promotion with Spezia, Juve had finished seventh the season before and there was no vision.
“I was fortunate, as the moment I arrived, President Andrea Agnelli also took over and he was a real fan. We managed to do something extraordinary, because we were absolutely not the favourites starting out. Instead, we beat an extraordinary Milan side with Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, etc, while the Inter team was still coming off the Treble.”
His history at Juventus, as both a coach and player, made him an unwanted element to many Nerazzurri fans at the start.
“I made the most difficult choice by coming to Inter. Many would’ve hidden behind history, but I love a challenge and came here to challenge myself.
“I remain a fan of every club I worked for, but I am the ultimate fan of the club where I work right now, always. I realise it wasn’t easy for me to enter the hearts of all Inter fans, but I have always given my all for the team I work for.
“I think I really challenged myself this time and I am rewarded with a team that is doing something extraordinary.”
Everyone said Conte changed the culture at Inter, but has Inter changed Conte?
“Speaking of which, it is totally false to say that I wanted to change the Inter anthem. I liked the anthem Pazza Inter, it was fun and catchy, so someone used my comment – that winning teams are stable and not ‘crazy’ – to make it seem like that was my idea.
“That really irritated me, because I would never dare try to scrap a club’s anthem.
“Having said that, it was not easy for me to settle in, it will never be easy and there are certain dynamics at play. I see at the slightest chance, journalists and even fans are so quick to be negative. I would urge people to be more positive and more supportive.”