Antonio Conte’s season begins today as he finally can take his place again in the Juventus dugout as he concludes his four-month ban for match fixing. Originally given a ten month ban, his sentence was reduced by the National Court of Arbitration for Sport in early October, much to the delight of Conte who had already served two months by that point. Conte was found guilty of match fixing during the summer after Filippo Carobbio accused Conte, then manager of Siena which included Carobbio, that the result in a fixture against Novaro had been pre-arranged. A similar accusation was flaunted following another game between Siena and AlbinoLeffe which ultimately led to the Juventus manager to be found guilty. Conte continued to plead innocent to all charges and stating that the evidence given was of poor quality and lacked credibility.
Conte, a former favourite of the Juventus fans because of his 13 years spent as a player and captain at the club, returned to The Old Lady as head coach in May 2011 following the departure of Luigi Delneri. The former italian internationalist concluded his playing career in 2004 and immediately look towards staying in football through coaching. He began as assistant manager at Siena to Luigi De Canio at the start of the 2005-2006 season, before eventually moving on to full management with Serie B side Arezzo in the summer of 2006. He lasted only 5 months before being sacked but bizarrely returned to the Arezzo managers seat 5 months later after the manager brought in to replace Conte performed worse than Conte had during his time. Conte did perform better in his second spell but was powerless in preventing Arezzo from being relegated that year.
After leaving the now Serie C team, Bari became the next port of call for Antonio. His luck and managerial skills began to show and within two years, he had turned Bari from relegation candidates in Serie B to champions and gained promotion to Italy’s top league. It was in this summer, in 2009, that Conte was first linked with Juventus. As a club legend, Conte was the people’s choice following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri by Juventus instead turned to another former player and legend, centre back Ciro Ferrara. Conte was disappointed but knew that some day he would have the job so started to look at other options after agreeing a mutual termination with Bari of his contract. Atalanta was his next stop but problems between himself and the organized ultras of the club around the way the club was managed forced Conte to step down in January 2010. His stock had risen in Italian football by this point and it wasn’t long until Siena, the club he was assistant manager at, came in for his services again. He took full control on May 2010 and immediately led them that season to promotion from Serie B back into the top flight.
After a year at Siena, Juventus came calling and it was a call that Conte couldn’t ignore any longer. His former club had suffered badly in the previous years which included a match fixing scandal of their own which they ultimately lost and saw them relegated to Serie B and stripped of the two titles they had won in 2005 and 2006 under then manager Fabio Capello. Now back in Serie A, Conte knew that he needed to restore pride in the club once more and deliver a title to his beloved club. Juventus, the most succesful club in italian footballing history had been stripped of its titles but also its dignity during the scandal and had fought for the past 5 years to reclaim their top spot again in Italy’s top league. Other managers had come and gone and been unable to win the title but Conte delivered, winning Juventus’s first title since 2003 (2006 if you include the titles taken away). Remarkably he managed Juventus to an unbeaten season, quite a feat in the professional game. With the title came Champions league football again to the delight of Conte and the Juve fans.
That was until the match fixing scandal broke and their manager was suddenly at the heart of it. Conte returns today to the hot seat and takes charge of Juventus once more and he will be pleased at what he sees. Top of Serie A after 15 games ( the unbeaten record has been ended y two defeats), still in both domestic cups and qualified for the knock out stages of the Champions League, Juventus are on a roll. Conte knows that with the ban now behind him, he can focus once again on his beloved club. Juventus may well have just made their most important signing of the year without even knowing it. The master has returned and he is fired up, ready to go and once again stamp Juventus’s name across every trophy he can find.