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Why Chelsea's title triumph proves Conte (& not Pep) the world's best coach

COMMENT: Today, Antonio Conte is the best manager in the world. And through Chelsea's success, Italian coaching stands alone as the best on the planet.

But there'll be no calls for Premier League clubs to adopt the 'Italian Way'. No papers published on why the FA needs to rip up it's development system and go Italian.

Why? Because the triumph of Italian coaching is the individual. The success of Conte - and last season Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City - was borne out of the gauntlet run by every coach who has worked in Serie A, the most tactically intense competition in the game.

It was on Conte to be flexible. He had to adapt. He had to adjust. It was on the Italian to get a tune out of a squad that had finished tenth last season. Humiliated. As Thibaut Courtois conceded over the weekend "laughed at".

There was no clearout. No massive summer spend. No support from management to buy the players to suit Conte's preferred system. He had to adjust. He had to find a formation to bring out the best from what he'd inherited. And after his years of preparation with Bari and Juventus, the manager did just that.

Of course, after the opening weeks of the season, no-one saw this coming. Not even Roman Abramovich, whom after the defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool, sought out Conte for a face-to-face chat about where it was going wrong.

Up north, Manchester City were nailed on champions. Pep Guardiola, as he'd done in Spain and Germany, was to sweep all before him. No-one could touch him, nor his tiki-taka...

But six months on, to examine the differences between the Catalan and the Italian is to recognise why Conte will get his hands on the Premier League crown this weekend.

There's no bending from Guardiola. His style of football is all he knows. It's the players who are at fault. They're either not 'educated' enough to adjust to the manager's demands or simply aren't the right fit for his system.

In contrast, after those defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool, Conte took a step back and considered what he could do to change things. Reflecting on the toughest period of his short Chelsea career, there was no finger pointing from Conte. No defence of what he'd tried before - ahead of going with three at the back...

"I found the strength to change. I took responsibility. And it was the key moment for us."

No excuses. Just personal responsibility.

But what of the personnel? Chelsea failed to land any of Conte's preferred targets during the summer transfer window. In contrast, City backed Guardiola's decision to bomb out Joe Hart and sign Claudio Bravo from Barcelona. He then dumped Yaya Toure for something his agent had said. All with the approval of management.

Simple question: how would Guardiola have handled Diego Costa this season? Could he? The clear answer is, no.

And that, again, is why Chelsea are champions today.

Chelsea offered Conte the chance to dump Costa in January. The centre-forward had publicly challenged the manager's authority against Leicester City. He was primed to be sold. China's Tianjin Quanjian were willing to pay what was needed to get the deal done. But Conte said no. And even after Costa, again, infamously went gunning for him on the Cobham training pitch, Conte stood his ground. He stared down Costa. But this wasn't about egos or personalities. It was about what was best for Chelsea. And keeping hold of Costa, for all his antics, was what was needed at the time.

That it was Costa who 'kidnapped', along with David Luiz, the manager from his Hawthorns media conference, spoke volumes. But not as loud as Conte's decision to break away from the players and continue his post-match duties. The responsibility is always to the club. His duty is to Chelsea. Even when the champagne is flowing. In that moment, Conte gave us all a brilliant lesson in man-management. He can have a joke with the players, but he's his own man. The authority remains. But more importantly, he let his players see that his commitment to his responsibilities overrides everything else. Those inside the Hawthorns media room would've forgiven Conte going back to the away dressing room for more celebrations. But he wasn't having it - and he'll expect his players to have taken notice.

Man-management and flexibility. That was Conte's way. The Italian Way. Just imagine where Chelsea could be if they backed their manager like City have Guardiola?


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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