Paolo Bandini at The Guardian has up the kind of piece I have always wanted to write, an excellent breakdown of the new Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. I have long been a Conte fan for a number of reasons: he managed by beloved Bari to their most recent promotion, he’s a smart tactical manager, and he’s not afraid to innovate in a league (Serie A) that defaults to the defensive.
The Bandini piece highlights some stories about how Conte deals with major stars and tough personalities. I think sometimes in sports we tend to downplay coaches or managers of superstars, assuming the success comes strictly from the players and not the person charged with managing their playing time, style of play, or even how they play. The story about Gigi Buffon discussing player bonuses is brilliant – how rare is it do you hear of a manager dressing down an international star over money he deserves and not only living to tell about it, but inspiring the entire team? Think that could ever happen to LeBron James?
There are a number of unknowns around Conte and Chelsea, especially since Conte has never managed outside the Italian federation, but if he brings the same leadership style to Chelsea as described in the article, no doubt Chelsea will soon be back on top.