The Italian has long moaned about a lack of depth, but he can no longer blame his bosses for poor results after being backed during the summer window
Antonio Conte was at it again last week.
While discussing his time at Chelsea, he effectively blamed the club’s inability to sign the players he most desperately wanted for his failure to leave a lasting legacy at Stamford Bridge.
“I think maybe we lost momentum to bring Chelsea to the very top and then to stay for many years,” the Italian told The Telegraph.
In fairness, Conte may have had a point. Had Chelsea added his top targets Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk to a squad he had surprisingly led to a Premier League title in his first season in charge, the Blues may well have gone on to dominate English football.
After all, Manchester United misfit Lukaku has re-established himself as a world-class forward under Conte’s guidance at Inter, while Van Dijk played a pivotal role in transforming Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool into the best team in the world after swapping Southampton for Anfield.
However, no coach always gets exactly what, or who, he wants. It is the nature of the game. There is intense competition among elite clubs for elite players.
Conte, though, has repeatedly clashed with his employers over their perceived failings in the transfer market.
Remember, it was he who famously warned Juventus that it would be impossible to win the Champions League without spending big.
“One cannot eat in a €100 restaurant with just €10 in your pocket,” the former Bianconeri boss stated in May 2014 – just two months before leaving Turin following a dispute over the club’s recruitment plans.
History very nearly repeated itself at Inter this summer.
Despite transforming the Milanese outfit into genuine Serie A contenders, and leading the club to its first European final since winning the treble in 2010, Conte very nearly quit San Siro at the end of the season.
Once again, the root cause was tension over transfers. Conte had repeatedly called out his board in public, most memorably after Inter blew a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund last November.
“Some important mistakes have been made at the planning stage, we can’t play both the Champions League and Serie A with such a small squad,” he fumed on Mediaset Sport.
“I’m tired of saying the same things over and over again, perhaps they (the directors) could come here over and say something. I hope that this [defeat] will help them understand a few things.
“They tell me that I should smile more on television. But I always end up saying the same things, about the growth process, about taking it step by step.
“The lads are giving everything and going at full pelt, and I can’t ask them for more than that.
“We are talking about players who, apart from Diego Godin, have never won anything. Who do we turn to? Nicolo Barella who has come from Cagliari? Or [Stefano] Sensi, who came from Sassuolo?”
It was a staggering outburst, a withering attack on not only Inter’s directors, but also their players. That Barella was name-checked was particularly puzzling, given he was a Conte signing and has quickly proven himself one of the best young players in Italy.
Ultimately, it was a wonder Conte saw out the season, given the complaints just kept coming. As ex-Inter goalkeeper Walter Zenga recently pointed out on Radio Sportiva, “If I said the things Conte has, I’d have already been shot!”