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The specter of Antonio Conte continues to haunt Serie A managers

Italian media invoke his name at the first sign of trouble

Chelsea v Manchester United - The Emirates FA Cup Final Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

First it was Milan’s Gennaro Gattuso. Before the first ball was kicked in anger to start the season, the Italian press was gleefully speculating that ambitious AC Milan would ditch him for Italy’s favorite coach-in-waiting, Antonio Conte.

That hasn’t happened yet, of course. It’s early days and Milan have won one and lost one, but the loss was to last season’s runners-up, Napoli, which isn’t disgraceful. So the Gattuso rumors have quieted down — until the first run of bad results, of course.

But the specter of Conte continues to hover over Serie A. The coach of every top club can feel his presence, and if they can’t, the Italian media is happy to remind them that he’s just a phone call away.

Previous hauntings have been reported at Inter Milan (despite the innate rivalry with Juventus), Juventus (should Allegri look for a new challenge), Napoli (who went for a different ex-Chelsea coach), and of course the Italian national team (who chose Roberto Mancini instead, for now). Thanks to a GPS navigation error, a haunting once occurred at PSG, too.

The latest manager to experience a visitation, courtesy of a media outlet that may be engaging in nothing more than groundless speculation, is Roma’s Eusebio di Francesco. It’s not as if Roma are in terrible shape, but last season’s third-place club are probably disappointing their American owners. They’ve played three and won one, lost one and have one draw. They sit ninth in the table, five points off the lead. It’s their worst start in five years.

Di Francesco had a rough summer, losing big names in goalkeeper Alisson and midfielders Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman. He’s used a different lineup in each game as he struggles to find the right combination.

Cue Calcionews24, who rattle the Conte chains and generally make life more miserable for di Francesco. While they stress that the manager still has the support of his bosses, some supporters are already calling for a change.

And that’s all the excuse Calcionews24 needs to summon the specter of the former Chelsea gaffer.

The feeling is that, beyond the declarations of the facade, those two races [Seria A and Champions League] can already be decisive for the future of Rome and its current coach. Confidence to Di Francesco then but for how long it is not known. With Antonio Conte on the loose, Eusebio can not sleep peacefully.

Conte himself remains in legal limbo. Chelsea sacked him and his staff without paying compensation, claiming he violated his contract. He’s reportedly countersuing, since £9m in severance is a nice chunk of change and he wants it.

Meanwhile, as befits a man in limbo (which is described as “an uncertain period awaiting a decision or resolution”), the presence of Conte hangs over Italy’s top league, with sensation-hungry media always primed for a séance and a summoning of his spirit.

Ed. note: And then there’s the slowly building speculation of Conte replacing Mourinho should this season turn into one of those typical third-season “Mourinho Seasons” (Seasonos?). Now that would be pretty funny (and probably a bit scary).

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