From sublime recruitment to bizarre sex advice, Antonio Conte is waking a sleeping giant of Italian football.
For the first time in years, Juventus now face a battle for supremacy in Serie A as Conte’s revitalised Inter are making a legitimate push for the title.
With the Nerazzurri now into their 10th season without a Scudetto success, the Italian manager arrived in Milan on a mission to restore the proud club to their former glory. The early signs are certainly encouraging.
Inter’s hard-fought 2-1 win over SPAL on December 1, combined with Juve’s 2-2 draw against Sassuolo, has seen Conte’s side climb to the Serie A summit.
Though only one point separates the top two, and the season isn’t even halfway through, Inter finally look ready to go the distance.
Since 2011, the year when they last lifted silverware, the club have gone through 11 managers, with Conte arriving in May to become No.12.
While his Juventus roots had some fans sceptical, the 50-year-old wasted no time in showing the Inter faithful that he meant business as he made a number of shrewd signings in the summer.
From veteran defender Diego Godin to Manchester United duo Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, Conte got a number of impressive deals done before deadline day.
He also put his cards on the table as he boldly declared he would bend for no-one, vowing to manage his way.
“One last thing about taking over at Inter as a former Bianconero: I think of myself as an honest and loyal person on all points, I believe in work, effort, sacrifice,” Conte told L’Equipe in November.
“I do not change my personality, I’m not an ass-licker, I do not play the violin. I try to make myself appreciated for all that, but if you prefer to fan the fire rather than take me as a positive example.
“I got to where I am by myself and I do not have to thank anyone except my parents. I am a free spirit.”
That spirit has been exemplified by Inter’s frontline as Lautaro Martinez and Lukaku have forged a deadly partnership. Between the duo in all competitions this season, they’ve had a hand in 29 goals.
Lukaku has already netted 10 times in Serie A, after only scoring 12 goals in the Premier League last season.
Lautaro, meanwhile, has struck five times in a tough Champions League group and has already scored more goals in 14 Serie A outings (eight) than he did in all of last season six.
As well as possessing a sharp attack, Inter have also shown good defensive discipline under Conte, conceding just 13 times across 14 Serie A games, with only Juventus boasting a better defensive record in the league.
While things have gone smoothly in the league, Inter face a fight to escape their Champions League group and likely need to beat Barcelona on December 10 to secure their place in the knockout stages.
Having seen his side let leads slip as they lost to both Borussia Dortmund and the Catalans, Conte’s passion saw him take a not-so-subtle swipe at the club’s hierarchy in a push for more support. “Big mistakes were made in planning this season. I am fed up of saying it,” Conte told Sky Sport Italia post-match.
“I don’t care about January or February. We should’ve planned this season out much, much better. We proved that we can trouble anyone if we are on form, but there are players who have played non-stop.
“We cannot play in Serie A and the Champions League constantly pushed to the limits. I am really pissed off, because we cannot do more than this. We’ve reached the limit.
“I just hope this type of match clarifies things for those who need to understand. The lads are going at 100km/h and I can only thank them for all they are doing during this period. They cannot give more than this.
“I am just fed up of saying the same things over and over. I hope a director comes here and says things instead.”