Lukaku, Pogba, Perisic: 10 players Antonio Conte turned into world beaters

Tottenham's Conte

All eyes are on Tottenham ahead of the 2022/23 season, ahead of Antonio Conte’s first full campaign in charge in north London.

Conte was appointed to replace the sacked Nuno Espirito Santo back in late 2021 and changed Spurs’ fortunes completely, guiding them to a fourth place Premier League finish and securing Champions League football.

And now, having been backed in the transfer market, fans are tentatively watching to see if Conte – a serial winner – can finally break the duck and land some much needed silverware at Spurs.

There were doubts about whether the eccentric Italian would even remain at the club heading into the coming season, as he expressed doubts early on regarding the board’s willingness to back him in the transfer market.

But those concerns were put to bed and, judging by their transfer business this summer, it appears Tottenham have gone all in and bought a fast track ticket for the rollercoaster of emotion that is a stint with Conte in the dugout.

Everyone knows his playbook at this point. It involves tireless amounts of running, similar player automatisms wherever he goes, and a need to be able to sign whoever he likes, which is often a combination of exciting stars and ageing wingers or full backs.

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It’s unusual, but put your trust in him, and you’ll reap the rewards. Not only will fans of Chelsea, Inter and Juventus tell you that, but so will a number of players who have worked under and been completely transformed by Conte himself.

Predicting Spurs to come out of the gate flying next season and storm to silverware in some capacity might seem a little premature. But, Conte was speaking after their pre-season game against Sevilla and, quoted by football.london, signalled his intentions to transition Lucas Moura into a wing-back:

“I spoke to Lucas and I think [wing-back] could be a good option. In the past I made Perisic in this position. Before a winger and to become a wing-back. He has the quality.”

Tottenham's Conte celebrates
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 15: Antonio Conte, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after their sides victory during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 15, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

When he starts doing this, you know he’s cooking. Premier League teams should be worried.

If that isn’t enough to convince you of Conte’s magical powers, though, we at GIVEMESPORT have compiled a list of the 10 players who found completely new levels with the help of the Italian.

10. Victor Moses

By the time Conte had arrived to manage Chelsea in 2016, Moses had already become a spare part at the club, following three different loan spells and a failure to kick on as a Chelsea player.

In any other circumstance, that would probably have been the end of him. However, Conte saw potential in the Nigerian winger and converted him into a wing-back for the 2016/17 campaign. He made 40 appearances in all competitions as Chelsea lifted the Premier League. A truly stunning career turnaround.

Moses celebrates
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 27: Victor Moses of Chelsea celebrates scoring his sides third goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge on August 27, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

9. Alessandro Bastoni

Considering just how enviably good Bastoni is at football and particularly the art of being a modern defender, it isn’t unfair to say that he’d likely still be just as highly regarded if he hadn’t played under Conte.

But he did, and in doing so, Conte turned him into one of the most exciting, progressive central defenders in the world and a Scudetto winner in 2021, at the age of just 21. The Italian has progressed significantly quicker due to Conte, and continues to be linked with a move to Tottenham to reunite with his former boss.

8. Marcos Alonso

Spoiler – this isn’t the last instance of someone thriving at wing-back in this list. You’ve been warned.

Fans of English football remembered Alonso for a forgetful spell with Bolton Wanderers and an equally forgetful loan spell with Sunderland. So when Conte paid £24m to sign him for Chelsea in 2016, it was a surprise. They trusted the process, though, and reaped the rewards. The Spaniard was key at wing-back in Conte’s success at the club.

Conte and Alonso
BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND – APRIL 08: Marcos Alonso of Chelsea and Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea embrace after the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Chelsea at Vitality Stadium on April 8, 2017 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

7. Pedro

Pedro’s first season at Chelsea was a bleak one, as they struggled immensely under Jose Mourinho. Conte’s arrival signalled a fresh start, though, and Pedro thrived on it, finding the heights Chelsea had expected of him when he signed in 2015.

The Spaniard occupied a role in the front line under Conte and was instrumental in the 2016/17 season with nine goals and nine assists. It fizzled out after that as did Conte’s tenure, but that one season made him look like a new player once again.

6. Andrea Pirlo

By the time he’d joined Juventus in 2011, Pirlo had already cemented himself as one of the game’s greatest midfielders, but Milan had let him go for free as they thought he had passed his peak.

How wrong they were. Conte snapped up the veteran in his first summer as manager of the Old Lady and immediately transformed him, giving Pirlo a completely new lease of life at the base of Juve’s midfield. So much so, that Pirlo was integral in the shifting of momentum that would see Juve dominate Serie A that decade.

Pirlo and Conte
TURIN, ITALY – OCTOBER 02: Juventus FC manager Antonio Conte celebrates the victory with Andrea Pirlo at the end of the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AC Milan on October 2, 2011 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

5. Achraf Hakimi

With Real Madrid unconvinced of his qualities despite a bright two-year loan to Borussia Dortmund, Conte convinced Inter to swoop in and sign Hakimi in 2020 to bolster his XI.

The right wing-back fit like a glove into Conte’s system, and immediately proved to Real that he was the young, world class talent that they would need in the position in the years to come. Hakimi racked up seven league goals and 10 assists as Inter won the Scudetto, earning a big money move to Paris Saint-Germain as a result of Conte helping him along.

4. David Luiz

Just three years after selling him to PSG for £50m, Luiz returned to Stamford Bridge in 2016 for £30m at the request of new manager Conte. Re-signing a former player is always a strange one, but it proved to be a stroke of genius this time around.

Conte made the Brazilian look absolutely dynamite in a back three system, allowing his progressive ball carrying abilities and dominant defensive displays to power Chelsea to the Premier League. Luiz had transformed into a consistently world class defender under the tutelage of the Italian.

Luiz lifts the Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 21: David Luiz of Chelsea poses with the Premier League trophy after the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

3. Ivan Perisic

A player that sums up Conte incredibly well. Perisic’s Inter career had began to fizzle out upon Conte’s arrival, looking like a square peg in a round hole.

But, following a loan spell with Bayern Munich in 2019/20, he returned to Inter refreshed, older and wiser, taking to his manager’s methods like a duck to water. Conte transformed Perisic from a winger to a wing-back, and it gave the Croatian a new lease of life. So much so that he’s brought him to Tottenham with him. Romantic.

2. Paul Pogba

Nobody needs reminding of just how electric Pogba was during his first spell with Juventus. And it was Conte who snapped up the teenager who had left Manchester United for free, and gave him the tools he needed to flourish.

The Frenchman quickly became one of the most exciting players in world football thanks to the trust Conte had instilled in him. So much so, that United re-signed him in 2016 for a world record fee. Here’s hoping a return to Juve can see Pogba find the form that Conte had pulled out of him all those years ago.

Conte and Pogba
TURIN , ITALY – SEPTEMBER 29: Paul Pogba (L) of Juventus celebrates the opening goal with his head coach Antonio Conte during the Serie A match between Torino FC and Juventus at Stadio Olimpico di Torino on September 29, 2013, in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

1. Romelu Lukaku

Another player who had lost their way at United albeit at different points in their career, Lukaku’s 2019 switch to Inter was always considered a good move for the player, but nobody quite expected him to perform like he did.

Under the tutelage of Conte, the Belgian went from the brunt of the joke in the Premier League to one of the most complete forwards in Europe and a rampant goal scorer, who could now play with his back to goal effectively and still put the ball in the net with regularity. Lukaku and Conte were the driving force behind Inter’s 2020/21 success; it’s a shame their relationship had to end just after that.

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