Antonio Conte's resignation as Juventus manager comes at a perfect time. The Italy job is still vacant following former boss Cesare Prandelli stepping down, and the FIGC would be wise to hire Conte as the coach of the national team as he possesses all the attributes required.
Conte's future with Juve has been in the news for a while. The 44-year-old was considering his future back in May. Eventually the manager stuck around, but didn't sign a contract extension past 2015.
Now's the time for the Italian FA to pull the trigger and appoint Conte as the new manager. If anyone can deliver the culture change that some have called for, it's him.
One of the major issues during the 2014 World Cup was all of the reported unrest within the squad. Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli were the two that were allegedly causing those issues. Conte has been able to balance egos and cut any of that nonsense out of his team.
I think he's already on the same level [as Ferguson].
He's not lacking anything. He shows that in every game and in every competition he's involved in. He's a top, top coach.
Andrea Pirlo also praised Conte in his autobiography, I Think Therefore I Play, quoted in Gazzetta dello Sport, via Football Italia.
I have dealt with many coaches in my career. Conte is the one who surprised me the most. He needed just one speech, with many simple words, to conquer both me and Juventus. We arrived together on the Planet Juventus.
He presented himself to us on the first day of pre-season training in the gym at Bardonecchia. He already had fire running through his veins and moved like a viper. ‘This squad, dear lads, is coming off two consecutive seventh-place finishes. It’s crazy. Shocking. I am not here for this, so it’s time to stop being crap.
If Arrigo Sacchi was a genius, then what is he? I expected him to be great, but not that great. I thought of a coach with a lot of grit and charisma, but instead I discovered he has much to teach his colleagues in terms of tactics and technique.
Going back, there is one thing I wouldn’t do again—choose the locker right next to Gigi Buffon at the Juventus Stadium, the one in front of the door.
“It is the most dangerous spot in Turin, especially at half-time. Conte storms in and—even when we are winning—throws anything he can get his hands on towards the wall, which is my spot. He’ll throw anything he can find, almost always plastic bottles full of water. Very fizzy water.
He becomes a beast and is never happy, as there is always some detail that isn’t perfect and he can see in advance what could happen over the next 45 minutes.
One time we were losing to Milan and he couldn’t get over it. ‘Against them! I can’t understand how we can’t be beating them! They even play badly.'
If Pirlo holds Conte in that high regard, then certainly every other member of the Azzurri will follow.
The only issue is Conte's tactics. Some questioned his lack of success in the Champions League, citing his 3-5-2 system as the problem. However, when he arrived at Juve, there were strong rumors of Conte using a 4-2-4. He eventually changed that to a 4-3-3, then the 3-5-2.
Italians won't have to worry about tactical naivete from Conte. If he's been able to change on the fly at Juventus, he'll do the same to get the best out of the Nazionale.
Conte will be able to change the culture and instill some grit back into the Azzurri squad, something they desperately need. Tactically, he's a lot more flexible than Roberto Mancini or other potential candidates as well.
If the players want to operate under Conte, then it would be a smart decision to hire him. They'll give it their all to win. It's the manager's obsession. If his team isn't doing enough to be successful, Conte will make the necessary changes.
The question that remains is if Conte would be willing to manage a national team right now. He's in his mid-40s, which is still very young in coaching terms. If a big club comes calling, like Monaco and PSG have done in the past, Conte might pass on Italy.
It still wouldn't hurt to try and pursue Conte, especially with someone of his pedigree available on the market.