Juventus icon Gianluigi Buffon has defended the decision of his former coach Antonio Conte to join Inter Milan as manager.
Conte will return to Serie A for the 2019-20 campaign, taking over from Luciano Spalletti at the San Siro. Given the rivalry between Inter and Juventus, some supporters of the latter have criticised Conte, who enjoyed great success with the Bianconeri as a player and manager.
Buffon, who left Juventus to join Paris Saint-Germain last summer after a distinguished 17-year spell with the club, told Corriere dello Sport the coach shouldn't be getting grief for his decision (h/t Football Italia):
"What really did upset and hurt me was seeing some Juve fans calling for Conte's star in the hall of fame to be removed after he joined Inter. I feel that I am within the Juve world, I know the directors, players and fans well, so I know what Antonio gave to the club and what he represented.
"He squeezed out every last drop of sweat for Juve, giving all of himself. As a player, he never held back for the good of the team. As a Coach, he carried the squad on his back and dragged them to success with total clarity and never stopping for breath. In three packed seasons, he never once let his focus slip."
Buffon added he feels he shares "a rapport of great respect and closeness" with Conte and labelled the manager's decision as a "professional" choice.
For the Nerazzurri, getting the former Juventus, Chelsea and Italy boss on board represents a coup. Italian football journalist David Amoyal thinks Conte can build an Inter side good enough to challenge Juventus this term:
Throughout his coaching career, Conte has been able to improve teams with his man management and tactical acumen.
That was evident at Juventus. Having spent 13 years with the club as a player, Conte went on to steer the Turin giants to three Serie A titles in his three years as manager, triggering the spell of dominance the Bianconeri are still enjoying in Italian football.
At Chelsea, he won the Premier League title and the FA Cup in two seasons; his debut campaign was especially impressive:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Antonio Conte was the first manager to win 30 Premier League games in a single season, the first manager to complete a league double vs Pep Guardiola & the first manager to beat José Mourinho in an English domestic cup final. If you’d forgotten how good he was, he’s back. 🔵⚫️ https://t.co/ibmVaexrUX
Football broadcaster Mina Rzouki thinks that the Inter board needs to back Conte:
Juventus have yet to appoint a successor to Massimiliano Allegri after he left his position as manager at the end of the campaign. Per Simon Stone of BBC Sport, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is set to take over despite his ties to Juve's rivals Napoli.
Buffon's own future is uncertain after it was confirmed his contract with PSG will not be extended this summer. The 41-year-old is rated as one of the all-time great goalkeepers, winning Serie A nine times with Juventus and the 2006 FIFA World Cup with Italy.