Antonio Conte hasn't enjoyed the best time as Italy's head coach. This time last year, the 46-year-old was receiving death threats from angry Juventus fans who were blaming their former boss' training methods on Claudio Marchisio's injury. Conte wasn't at peace, obviously. He had been greatly affected at what he'd read on social media and was already thinking about moving back into full-time club management.
As Juventus boss, Conte had established himself as one of the most astute, consistent tactical minds in European football. The former Bianconeri captain guided the Old Lady of Italian football back to the top after a spell in the post-Calciopoli darkness and, naturally, was approached for a number of lucrative jobs, not least succeeding David Moyes as Manchester United boss. He turned that chance down, but now he looks set to grace English football as the man charged with the unenviable task of hauling Chelsea out of mid-table mediocrity.
Roman Abramovich knows something about demurring employees. He had one, on two occasions. While you could argue that Guus Hiddink is the polar opposite, behaviourally speaking, to Jose Mourinho, the Dutchman's successor is a man noted for his wild, abrasive temperament. Under these last few weeks of Hiddink's ship-steadying sagacious tenure, the Chelsea fans should enjoy the silence, because Conte will most certainly bring a volatile, capricious ego along with his considerable tactical nous.
He has passion and then some. Andrea Pirlo once said of Conte during their time together at Juventus: "He had fire running through his veins and he moved like a viper. 'This squad, dear boys, is coming off two consecutive seventh-place finishes. It's crazy. It's shocking. I am not here for this, so it's time to stop being so crap.'"
Yes, Conte is a man who gets to the point. When his squad under-performs, they know about it afterwards. It is an approach that can alienate as much as it can motivate. When he departed after three trophy-laden years at the Juventus Stadium, Marchisio said he would enjoy the tranquility under then incoming Massimiliano Allegri. "We can do without all of his screams," Marchisio said in La Gazzetta dello Sport at the time.
But the results spoke for themselves at Juventus. They went unbeaten for an entire Serie A campaign in Conte's first season, a flawless domestic season blemished only by a Coppa Italia final defeat. However, it was undeniable that Conte had restored the spirit and pride of a club whose name had been dragged through the mud in recent years. Juventus were publicly shamed, demoted and banished from the high-table of Italian football (deservedly, it should be added). Conte was the man who reinvigorated a fallen giant, a challenge mirrored in what's facing him in west London.
However, it cannot be ignored that Conte will bring the thunder to Stamford Bridge, a place that hasn't enjoyed the most undisturbed times of late. Conte has a court case hanging over him for possible sports fraud and faces fresh allegations of match-fixing with the release of a new book by Sky Italia journalist Dario Nicolini. It is interesting to consider then, that Abramovich has picked a successor who appears to bear a lot of the troubling elements of Mourinho. While he possesses the ability to continue the restorative efforts of Hiddink, he is a coach not completely divorced from controversy.
On Sky Sports' Sunday Supplement programme, The Sun's football correspondent Shaun Custis made an excellent point that there's an erratic pattern in Abramovich's managerial appointments.
"[Abramovich] swings back and forward - You have [Carlo] Ancelotti, who was a wonderful, calm, authoritative figure, then Hiddink, who is slightly less authoritative, but similarly calm figure. And then you have Mourinho and then you have Conte. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground."
Essentially, Abramovich is disturbing the peace Hiddink has brought with him. Conte is perhaps not a long-term appointment for the club, but that has never been a pressing concern for their Russian billionaire owner. Indeed, it must be stressed that we've seen great managers crumble under the intense scrutiny of the Chelsea job before. Considering that Conte once needed to be separated from his own fans when he was coaching Atalanta, it would be fair to assess that the current Azzurri boss will have to exhibit more equanimity in the cut-throat Premier League environment.
As always, it's a results business and Conte's are usually highly impressive. He may well return Chelsea to the top, but it won't happen quietly.
For more fan views or to join the conversation visit www.90min.com