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Gianluigi Buffon described Antonio Conte’s shock resignation from Juventus as losing someone ‘who encapsulated the Juventus spirit’. It was a disposition that glided around the picturesque streets of Turin, and one that brought an unprecedented amount of joy back to black and white half of the city.
On Tuesday evening, Conte’s departure from the Old Lady took the calcio world by storm. With not even 48 hours on the clock from his return to preseason, Juventus confirmed the rumours of his resignation.
A prerecorded video was placed onto the club’s YouTube page, where Conte admitted the ‘consensual decision to terminate the contract with Juventus’. The once fiery tactician sat there fully kitted as he bid the club and fans farewell with a shattered expression of disbelief across an evidently fatigued face.
“There was a journey towards this decision,” said the 44-year-old in the video. “Let’s say that winning is first of all difficult, wherever you are. It is inevitable that at such a prestigious and historically winning side as Juventus you are obliged to win, so it can be tough. However, someone who has proved himself to be a winner can survive that stress and I think I’ve proved it.”
For the Juventus fan, it was like watching a divorce occur between two of the most perfectly matched pair that not even Shakespeare himself could’ve conjured up. For the neutral, it was equally as disturbing to bare witness too.
The Lecce-born man had spent over a decade playing for the Bianconeri during his career, notching up over 400 league appearances for Juventus in his impressive tenure. From berth he was a fan of the club nestled under the Alps, and his passion was evident from the get-go.
Brought back to the club in 2011, Conte managed to turn an underachieving Juventus, that finished in seventh place in back-to-back seasons, into a team oozing with passion and purpose with every touch of the ball.
His overwhelming appetite to see himself and his players do well and, of course, bring back the glory days to Juventus, drove the team to their three major Scudetti successes. Losing just seven league games and 15 in all competitions across the three years was an accomplishment few tacticians would’ve managed to achieve.
So frequently did Conte voice his love and admiration for the club and its supporters that his departure rightly came as a surprise to everyone involved.
“It was unexpected, a bolt out of the blue,” Buffon added in a separate interview. “Seeing the words and his tones both from the coach and the club, we see that they have consensually came to this decision without a rift. Probably something grew in him and brought him to this decision.”
Not only does the former midfielder’s exit leave the club in a state of uncertainty, regarding transfers and how new head coach Massimiliano Allegri will cope, but the club has lost a renaissance figure.
Conte was someone who returned Juventus back to their glory days. He gave them a voice after the 2007 calciopoli scandal sentenced them to a hard run of criticism and rebuilding. But he was also a figure of modern day Italian football.
No longer focused on the purpose of defending, he formed an attacking side that would alternate from a back three into a back five, all while successfully resisting using the European style of playing a loan striker.
His modern visionary tactics in a team compiled of exciting talent like Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal, mixed with the experience and leadership of Buffon and Andrea Pirlo was a recipe for success. And success they tasted, three fold.
Andrea Angelli wrote in a letter addressed to Conte: “We'll start again from zero. Zero points in the table, just like all the others, and zero wins.
“But this club has a young management team that is both talented and close-knit, and in these recent years it has found the ambition and determination to achieve its targets.
“Juventus will start again with a squad of highly talented, professional footballers who will give their all for the new coach and go on writing this club's present and future. You have been a part of Juventus' history and I know that whatever choice you make, hearing of a Juventus victory will always bring a smile to your face.”
What lies next for Conte is a mystery in itself. He said he was only ‘focusing on the present’ when courted with the possibility of becoming the national team head coach.
Naturally, Conte is the right man for the job. His credentials speak for itself and it may well be that the right place for him to return to the bench will be in the Azzurri kit.
After all, he can’t go any higher in Serie A than the success and silverware he reached with Juventus, but there are possibilities abroad and one where a bigger budget may tempt him in creating a team worthy of winning the UEFA Champions League.
However, for the country of his birth, having him leading the Azzurri would be the best thing for Italy. Having played a vital role in reforming some of the game in the peninsula, the four-times World Cup winners could use a visionary like Conte on the bench.
It would be regarded as a new and challenging obstacle, but one that both can benefit from.