Yes, it sounds like the recurring dream of a Juventus fan since July 15, when Antonio Conte abruptly resigned as the team's coach. But the possibility of Conte returning to the club he won eight scudetti as player and manager should certainly not be dismissed.
It obviously won't be next year. His next destination will likely be outside of Italy. He had stated a desire to coach abroad as early as March of 2013, when Sky Sport quoted him as saying, "There is the will to face new experiences."
It's difficult to see him coaching another team in Italy. Roma, Fiorentina and Napoli have coaching situations that are likely to be stable for the foreseeable future. Walter Mazzarri is, for the time being, secure at Inter. Conte's friend, journalist Massimo Giletti, told Italian radio (h/t Football Italia) that Conte had left in part because of dealings with AC Milan, but if that were truly the case, Filippo Inzaghi probably wouldn't be the Rossoneri manager right now.
In this writer's opinion, the Italian club Conte is most likely to coach next is the one he just left.
There is a precedent at Juventus for this kind of return. The two most successful coaches in the team's history, Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi, both returned to the Juve bench not long after ending their first tenures.
Trapattoni spent five years at Inter after his wildly successful 10-year run on Juve's bench from 1976 to 1986. By 1991, however, he had returned to Turin. During his second spell, from 1991 to 1994, he didn't add to the six scudetti he'd amassed in his previous run but saw the team win its second UEFA Cup and set the stage for the team's golden era under Lippi, who took over after the 1993-94 season.
Lippi earned the Juve job after guiding a Napoli side rife with financial problems into a UEFA Cup spot. He won the title in his first year. Over five seasons he led the team to their second European title and two more Champions League finals—not to mention two more scudetti.
Lured away from Turin by Massimo Moratti in an effort to rejuvenate Inter, Lippi was fired one game into his second season and returned to Juve in the summer of 2001. He claimed two more titles and went to another Champions League final before leaving the club for good for his first stint with the Italian national team.
Presented with these precedents, it's easy to envision Conte barking orders on the Juve sideline at some point in the future.
The door has certainly been left open for it. While the announcement was shocking and the timing less than ideal, club officials have had nothing but good things to say about Conte since he left.
In remarks to Fox Sports Asia relayed Wednesday by Goal.com's Joe Wright, team president Andrea Agnelli said he was "very happy with the job that's been done over the last three years." He added that Conte and the club "decided together he would leave the dugout."
It has been guessed by many that disagreement between Conte and the front office over transfer policy is what led to his departure, but one cannot find any bitterness in remarks made to the press by anyone involved following the resignation. To this point, no public statement about the separation has closed the door to a return.
Even Lippi, who made the journey back, spoke of the possibility of a return this week. In comments made to Tuttosport (reported by Goal's Mark Doyle), Lippi expressed surprise at Conte's resignation but also added, "I hope to see Conte at Juventus again in the future."
It also must be noted that Conte's service to Juve as a player ties him to the club far more deeply than either of his predecessors, who played the bulk of their respective careers at Milan and Sampdoria.
Even as his energy visibly flagged toward the end of the season, Conte celebrated the clinching of Juve's third Scudetto like a little boy whose favorite team had just won the trophy. The team means a lot to him. His resignation was likely caused in some part by his unwillingness to give the team less than 100 percent.
A few years down the road, the on-field motivation for a return may be just as strong.
The Bianconeri are awash in talented young forwards like Domenico Berardi and Manolo Gabbiadini who could anchor the team for years to come. The Juventus Stadium has already made them the financial powerhouse of Italy, and the completion of the Continassa project will bring in additional funds.
When their new kit deal with Adidas kicks in next season, Juve will reportedly earn just short of €30 million annually—double its current take from Nike.
Additional sponsorship deals with Samsung and a new TV rights deal could push Juve's share into nine figures and give the team even more financial wherewithal. A returning Conte might be able to have his pick of players, as Juve's past bosses did.
Of course, just because Trapattoni and Lippi returned to Juve before him does not mean that it is a certainty that Conte will follow suit. The paths of fate are not set in stone. But given the team's history of welcoming back its best and Conte's deep ties to the club, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility out of hand.
It likely won't be next year, and it may not be 10 years from now, but someday Conte might be roaming the Juventus sideline once more.
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