He looked like a caged animal, prowling back and forth in the little Perspex box high above the pitch of various stadiums around Italy and Europe. Interrupting the constant nibbling of nails only to shout and scream at players who couldn’t hear him, the experience must’ve deafened director Fabio Paratici, whose job it was to sit next to Antonio Conte on match days. Now, after 122 days, the Coach is finally back on the touchline as Juventus visit Palermo in the Stadio Barbera.
The reasoning behind the four-match ban for failing to alert authorities to a potential fix has been covered before, so I shall leave that to one side. That is in the past and what’s done is done. The important thing now is that Conte is where he belongs and is the real mid-season reinforcement Juve needed.
This is a team that needs to be shouted at, which is why it is absolutely no coincidence that the Bianconeri dipped in form during Angelo Alessio’s brief tenure. The assistant manager is a lovely man, bless him, but really not a shouter. He is quiet, reflective and tends to sit in silence on the bench looking a little forlorn. Massimo Carrera may only have been a member of staff rather than Conte’s right hand man, but he embodied more of the charisma, determination and leadership qualities than Alessio could ever muster. I’m pretty sure half-time team talks were left down to Carrera in Conte’s absence, for when you need a hairdryer treatment rather than a mini-fan.
None of that matters now, because The Boss is back. Conte was an essential figure in the Scudetto triumph because he brought his personality and desire to win into the team. These perhaps aren’t the most skilful or spectacular players in Serie A, but as a well-drilled unit they stand above the rest. They are only a unit because of their General giving orders and keeping everyone in line.
It’s true that Conte’s ban did not stop him leading day to day training and pre-match talks, but Juventus have shown they can dip in intensity and need to be kept on their toes. You’ll see that they daren’t let up by an inch when the fiery Lecce native is there to snap at their heels. The wild animal is out of his cage, so you’d better run...
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