Antonio Conte can forget Tottenham misery and find redemption at Napoli

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The former Premier League winner has accepted a new job in Italy.

Just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in. Antonio Conte, a man who has the feeling of somebody who has been appointed Napoli manager several times in his career already, has been appointed Napoli manager. Organised crime cliches, meet organised defensive units.

In amongst the cobblestone piazzas and hand-stretched pizzas, the Italian firebrand - football’s very own answer to an unhinged one-season antagonist from The Sopranos - will embark on a mission of symbiotic redemption. It is over a year since he last stalked a dugout; his tenure at Tottenham Hotspur ending with a P45 that might as well have been a horse’s head beneath a duvet. Since then, Conte has been speculated upon plenty without ever succumbing to the siren’s call of any number of cursed vacancies; Napoli, however, have coaxed him out of his foreboding hibernation.

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The Neopolitans find themselves at a precarious juncture. After winning a first Serie A title since the days of Maradona and Mars Bar sponsorships last season, the reigning champions plummeted like a rat in concrete boots this time around, finishing 10th with a sickly 53 points to their name. Without the riches or lure of Champions League football, it is expected that they could lose several key players this summer, including, most alarmingly of all, talismanic striker Victor Osimhen.

Conte, then, arrives in a tricky moment alongside the hope of a daring restoration. Certainly, his words are enough to rouse hope in a fervent fanbase still aching from the bafflement of a whiplash disappointment. "Napoli is a place of global importance,” their new manager told a press conference. “I am happy and excited at the idea of ​​sitting on the blue bench. I can certainly promise one thing, I will do my utmost for the growth of the team and the club. My commitment, together with that of my staff, it will be total."

After all, Conte has done this before. As the dust settled on a tumultuous second stint with Chelsea, he took over the reins at Inter Milan and eventually guided the club to a first Serie A title in 11 years back in 2021. Prior to that, there were three successive scudettos with Juventus. Few men know their way around the upper echelons of the Italian top flight like 54-year-old, fewer still can claim to rival his bulging silverware collection.

But as much as Napoli need him, you suspect that Conte could use a bit of a reputation boost right now too. Failures have been rare over the course of his career, but his sour dalliance with Spurs was arguably one of the more notable stumbles. Not only did he leave North London without his usual customary trophy, but he also did so amid accusations of tactical ultra-conservatism that many felt to be uninspiring and rigid.

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Were Conte to arrive in Naples and salvage a situation that has turned remarkably bitter in devastatingly short order, it would feel like a huge moment of vindication for a manager who, prior to his time with Tottenham, was regarded as one of the elite coaches of continental football. Many, of course, still believe that he is exactly that. Now is the time for him to prove it.

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