Antonio Conte tells Champions Matchday about bringing a swagger back to Juventus, why Andrea Pirlo is so good and his forthcoming reunion with Carlo Ancelotti.
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Juventus may have suffered the slight setback of a 1-1 draw at FC København on the opening day of the UEFA Champions League but after two straight Serie A triumphs under Antonio Conte, they remain many people's tip for a third European title.
Coach Conte – a player in Juve's last continental success of 1996 – spoke to the new edition of Champions Matchday magazine, out today, about bringing the swagger back to the club, what he learned from Marcello Lippi, and the double-header with old boss Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid CF which follows next Wednesday's trip to Galatasaray AŞ.
You have brought success and swagger back to the Bianconeri ...
Juventus are among those powerhouses who have always needed to win, and along with Milan and Inter have won the most in Italy and also on a European level. Success is not just important, but the only thing that counts. You try to work hard to achieve victories and fill the cabinet with more new and prestigious trophies next to the ones already won.
You know what it means to win the UEFA Champions League with Juve ...
Although I had the occasion and talent to win a lot in my career, that [1996 victory against AFC Ajax in Rome] was the greatest one, my best satisfaction in football, because of the atmosphere, our way of getting there, the evening in general. The Champions League has something magical and every player, every coach and every club would like to lift the trophy with the big ears at least once.
Marcello Lippi was your coach at the time. Did you learn a lot from him?
I shared most of the success I achieved in my career with Mr Lippi as coach. We won five league titles, the Champions League, [European/South American] Cup, [UEFA] Super Cup. It was a path we took together. I learned [from him] and appreciated his motivation. We played like now – on Sunday, Wednesday and Sunday again – and he managed to get us to forget the success of the match before, instead jumping to the next. That's a big thing.
What makes Andrea Pirlo so good?
Players like Andrea are hard to find, because they have such extraordinary ball technique. He brings calm to the team in possession and anticipates play. Adding those talents to an organised system where everybody knows what they have to do, his qualities come out even better. Andrea doesn't run any less than before. I have studied the statistics and he is in the top ten players who have run the most in the Champions League. Physical strength is not his talent, it's his brain and his feet. He makes the collective stand out.
Your games against Real Madrid look fascinating ...
I said last season before the quarter-final that it was important to understand [where we were along the path] that started two years ago – Bayern gave us a lot of answers. This season the team have more experience and that's important. A lot of our players were playing in the Champions League for the first time last term. In Real Madrid we are facing one of the most ambitious teams, because of their history, their investments and their hunt for a tenth title. It will be a nice challenge – and an indicator of how we are developing.
You face Carlo Ancelotti, who coached you as a player ...
It's quite a few years since Carlo coached me. I spent two years with him, and they were wonderful, intense times. It was inevitable we'd meet again, coach to coach. That means he is getting old. Me too!
This is an edited version of an in-depth interview that appears in the new edition of Champions Matchday magazine. It is available in digital versions on Apple Newsstand or Zinio, as well as in print, and you can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.