Antonio Conte is a tough man to please. It’s not taken the gaffer at Inter Milan too long to sympathise with his previous companies. He strives for excellence, for greatness and anything less is just not acceptable.
And so with a group that finds themselves in a fierce battle with Juventus for the Serie A title, Conte wanted financing to obtain the star quality required to get them online. Given what he had, and how they had fared so far, he was not happy. The mystery he was putting together remained incomplete.
‘Apart from Diego Godin, these players have not won anything and lack expertise,’ Conte told Sport Mediaset.
‘We have too limited a group to face both Serie A and Champions League football this year. I mean limited concerning numbers and quality. Some players must be on the field continuously and in the long term, you do pay for that. I’m furious because this cancels out the fantastic work.’
In Conte’s head, Juventus never dither. If a participant can strengthen them, think about the deal done. Nobody in Turin so much as hesitated while the opportunity to spend #100million on Cristiano Ronaldo presented itself. Deal nobody thought possible was done – which is the point where the sides differ and shifting that is fundamental to Conte’s plan.
Conte is within touching distance of 2 trophies when they booked their semi-final place in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday and so everyone at Inter understands they’re close to finding the recipe for dominance.
Parma’s loan feeling Dejan Kulusevski was the main target and at £30m appeared a sensible investment.
Instead, they got a 34-year-old Ashley Young from Manchester United.
Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal has past working under Conte and the boss made it known that it was the Chairman he desired to bolster his midfield for this season.
Rather they got Christian Eriksen for £17.5m, a participant who has ghosted during the past several months at Tottenham.
The Dane was out of contract with Tottenham in the summer and could’ve made the transfer to Milan for free in a few months’ time. From a fiscal perspective, it did not make a good deal of sense. He refused to talk to media following the draw to Cagliari and was later analyzed for an irregular heartbeat. For a man who’s constantly on the edge of bursting, adding to his anxiety seemed like the wrong way for owners to go.
There is Victor Moses, who didn’t get a look in under Frank Lampard in Chelsea, in on loan along with Alexis Sanchez from Manchester United. His effect so far has been completely forgettable.
And so Conte is sitting on his boiling point, animatedly moving around the touchline in matches as his side do their best to squander a really exciting title race.
If it was not for Juventus’ rare slip up at Napoli, the gap might have been six points and on the cusp of being insurmountable given the Bianconeri’s stranglehold. However, Conte deserves credit for positioning the club in which they’re now, as among the biggest dangers to Juventus recently, in addition to the 91-point Napoli side under Maurizio Sarri.
Injuries are always a concern; the lack of depth had the capability to run off the wheels all the great Conte has established on this side.
And so with Kulusevski off the market and a move for Layvin Kurzawa failing to get off the floor, it becomes accessibility over quality with the deadline looming.
It was a return to the Premier League, a return to England to discover under-appreciated players who might fit – and in the end, flourish – in the system.
Young’s move raised eyebrows, obviously, given he is long past his prime. It read #NotForEveryone at the club’s announcement and that felt like it captured the response.
But he left a negative in turmoil for one in title contention. Left a manager without a lot of pedigree for one who has won the largest honours. From Young’s standpoint, it was a no brainer. It was, perhaps, more curious why Conte signed off it, was this ‘intellect and humor’ he spoke of?
In Conte’s preferred 3-5-2 system, together with the dependence on wing-backs, there’s very good expectation placed on the 3 creative central midfielders.
Stefano Sensi, a summer coming from Sassuolo, has been among the players of this season in Serie A and is almost assured of a starting role when matched.
Nicolo Barella, bought from Cagliari after Conte substituted Spalletti is another to have a place in that midfield three locked down.
However, the key now is how can Eriksen fit into all this? On paper, he’s not a natural match, not in a 3-5-2, or even the 3-4-3 Conte used against Fiorentina. These three successive draws just exacerbated the need for a conventional playmaker, a ‘trequartista’ as they say in Milan, for Lukaku and Martinez.
When given the ceremony, the old-school strike partnership in the attack has shown again and again they can complete – 25 Serie A goals between them reveals that.
It will remain a real concern that Eriksen’s peak performances are gone for a while. His past 12 months at Tottenham have left a lot to be desired, even though he could point to his attention being on a job elsewhere.