The Europa League final, a great festival of football took place in Turin last night. Sevilla triumphed, and as they revelled in their exceptional triumph, others took to wondering why Juventus didn't make it to the final.
The strongest don't always win, and it allows for fairy-tale stories that will entertain future generations. But with Juve fans praying for their own future to be filled with European success, their greatest concern is whether or not they can still count on Antonio Conte to guide them forward.
Scanning the people who attended the match, Sky Calcio’s cameras immediately captured Conte chatting to Sir Alex Ferguson alongside him. If one didn't immediately jump to conclusions, then he ought to count himself special. The press could not wait to publish rumours of the possibility another Italian would take charge of one of Europe’s greatest clubs -- Manchester United. Even certain important figures from AC Milan were asking the question, thereby rubbishing the claim they are in with the chance of prying Conte away from Turin.
Ferguson loves nothing more than acquainting himself with those he deems have exciting tales to tell him while Conte, coach of the team whose home hosted the event, reveled in the opportunity to swap ideas with the maestro of a manager. No deal was made, no future guaranteed. The press in Holland still believe their man, Louis Van Gaal, will take on the job largely because of his experience of winning domestic and European trophies.
If Manchester United wanted their next manager to be a man who would grow into the job, then there’s no better choice than Conte, but despite rumours to the contrary, the Bianconeri tactician cannot bear to break his bond with the club, even if his ambition will force him into that eventuality.
The reason for Conte’s pensive state is not because he wants the likes of Falcao and Luis Suarez to be purchased by Juventus, but he wants more and he is not quite sure how to reconcile his desires within the Juve setup. Great investments are indeed something the coach would like, but he’s not naive and has been aware of the financial limitations for many years now. He understands what can or cannot happen at present.
It’s about more control, more power, a different direction. In fact, fellow manager Luigi de Canio hit the nail on the head when he opined about the matter: "Patience is a virtue the ambitious cannot afford."
Though the club want to build in unison and in one particular direction, the coach is worried that somewhere along the line, all the compromising will rob him of the qualities that have made him different to the many others who have surrendered to defeat.
Juventus will always be Conte’s club, but Italy is no longer a country the coach wants to remain in necessarily. This is not due to the "poor" level of football, because if we are honest, it’s still better and more intelligent than most leagues around the world, but the pressure is enough to exhaust many psychologically. To criticise before congratulating is almost a motto, and traveling to away games has become almost unbearable with opposing fans desperate to take their own frustrations out on the successful team. Dodging flares, dealing with violence and exaggerated security measures, a certain few have robbed the sport of the pleasure it is supposed to provide as they watch their own failed teams stagnate in mediocrity.
Then there is the media. Certain few journalists are adored and loved by Conte and his team, but papers such as Gazzetta dello Sport write the kind of analysis other countries can only hope to replicate, and much of it appears as criticism. The publication calls for more and better when one ought to appreciate the spectacle before our eyes.
Even this blog struggles for words when matches are played to perfection. Compliments can seem indulgent and rather simplistic, especially when the alternative is to source the error, that one mistake that will inspire a thousand words. Unfortunately, failure is too often a journalist’s bread and butter.
A sporting project is important, winning is important, but like Florentino Perez showed us with Real Madrid, off the pitch excellence is almost as important. His club is the dream destination for many because of the glamour, the PR work, and the work done behind the scenes to create a brand that tempts the masses despite what losses they suffer on the pitch. Conte wants this and more, he wants it all, and it will be awhile before his club can provide it. The end destination is the same for both, but can they agree on the direction?