Marcello Lippi, former Juventus and Italy manager who took home the World Cup in 2006, has weighed in on the recent controversy between current Azzurri CT Antonio Conte and the club coaches of Serie A.
A meeting took place in Milan between Conte and most of the club coaches on December 16, which was described by the involved parties as productive. Topics of discussion included the necessity of a closer relationship between the national team and the clubs with regard to training and player availability. One of Conte’s particular requests, however, was the setting up of a three-day Azzurri training camp in February, citing the need to have personal contact with the players at least once between now and the next Euro qualifiers in March. This met with only a partial okay from the league, and after Juventus categorically refused to release any of their players to the Azzurri during that time (which falls very close to the next round of the Champions League), the Lega Serie A announced that any clubs competing in European cup tournaments would be considered free to refuse to participate.
Lippi, interviewed by RaiSport for La Domenica Sportiva, offered his input: “I don’t think that one training camp would be all that important,” he admitted. “If I can offer a small suggestion, it’s much more important to stabilize the rapport between the club coaches and the CT, with the objective of a consistent collaboration together. In my opinion the CT can reach an agreement with his colleagues at the clubs, most of all with those who are the busiest in multiple competitions, maybe to decide to avoid calling up the most important players to friendlies and so on. They play all the time…the problem isn’t that the players get tired, so much as that they can’t train the way that they should. One more training camp doesn’t count for much, as I see it, for me the most important thing is collaboration.”
But Lippi didn’t miss the chance to offer words of praise and confidence to Conte, who has been besieged by media and fans alike in recent weeks. “Conte was one of the leaders I had at my Juventus,” asserted Lippi, who coached Juve from 1994-1999 and again from 2001-2004, the two periods together spanning most of Conte’s playing career with the bianconeri and much of his time as captain. “Leaders come in different types – there are the very technically skilled ones, like Zidane or Del Piero, there are those who lead by personality, and Conte was a leader by example. He was a driving force, always the first to arrive for training, with a desire and determination always present, especially on the field.” Lippi then downplayed the evident coldness bordering on hostility between Conte and Juventus, much recounted in the press since his sudden dismissal as manager over the summer: “To me, it’s just a misunderstanding, and one that will be overcome. All great love stories provoke these kind of situations at times, and without a doubt that between Conte and Juve is a great love story.” And what about the words of Andrea Agnelli last week, who described Conte as “touchy”? Lippi laughs. “Yes, but never as much as me!”