Antonio Conte is one of three finalists for the The Best FIFA Men’s Coach 2017 award, alongside the coaches of the two Champions League finalists, Max Allegri at Juventus and Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid. While Zidane’s Double of La Liga and European glory (not to mention the FIFA World Club Cup and UEFA Super Cup as well) makes him the runaway favorite, Conte’s accomplishments in returning Chelsea to Europe and the top of the Premier League after a mid-table finish (and associated tactical revolution that he ushered in) should not be underestimated.
In support of the Chelsea’s coach’s nomination, the official FIFA website rounded-up a few quotes to define the three “key qualities” that make him the best head coach working in the game today: motivational skills, work ethic, and tactical acumen. Most of these quotes are not new, and some we’re certainly familiar with by now, such as Andrea Pirlo’s famous “his words assault you” quote. But while Pirlo speaks of a mental connection, for Victor Moses, there’s also a strong emotional connection.
"He gives everyone the opportunity to express themselves. I felt that from the start, right from the first day of training. He was talking to all the players. There was no favouritism. Each and every one of us totally respects him. We love him as our manager. He’s given us all massive confidence.”
Moses was one of the many feel-good stories of last year’s title win, with Conte elevating him from the depths of the loan system to a key first-team player, reinventing him as a wing-back in the process.
Another familiar face who returned to make an impact at Chelsea last season was David Luiz, who came back to the Blues after two years at PSG, where his starting spot was beginning to be threatened. And while his second stint at Chelsea got off to an inauspicious start with back-to-back losses to Liverpool and Arsenal, the formation switch to 3-4-3 made David Luiz the anchor and cover of the defensive line, and the veteran center back often derided for his lack of discipline thrived in the role that required utmost discipline and decision-making.
“When I decided to come back [to Chelsea] I knew I would work with a fantastic coach. He likes to work, that is his secret. He loves to work, he works with passion every day. He definitely improved me. And not just me - everybody."
Conte famously said that David Luiz had the potential to become the best center back in the world under his tutelage. You’re not going to find me disagreeing with that assessment.
One player on whom Conte was far less sold initially was Cesc Fàbregas, but the man famous for his magical passing kept his head down, redoubled his efforts in training, and forced himself into the coach’s plans. Fàbregas finished last season as the best 12th man in the league, and his role has expanded even further beyond that so far this season.
Over his long and illustrious career, Cesc has worked with some of the greatest coaches of the 21st century, but has repeatedly put Conte above the likes of Mourinho and Guardiola when it comes to tactics and determination.
“He is the coach who worked the most tactically [in my career], more than with [Jose] Mourinho and [Pep] Guardiola. Conte is meticulous. Until everything is done, training is not finished. Conte is something else.”
FIFA’s full post also includes quotes from Buffon, De Rossi, Darmian, and Giaccherini.
Conte’s time at Chelsea won’t last forever, but while he’s here, we can rest assured that the team is in great hands. He is not perfect — no one is — but he gets it right more often than most, he has limitless passion and desire, and he won’t settle for anything less than glorious victory.