MILAN – When Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte faces the cameras after a match, it is a case of lighting the blue touch paper and standing well back.
In his first season at Inter, the 51-year-old former Juventus, Italy and Chelsea coach has railed against his own club’s “poor planning” and an “insane” fixture list, and even blamed one poor performance on the opposition playing the wrong kind of football.
His latest outburst, however, after a 2-0 win at Atalanta on Saturday that clinched second place for Inter in Serie A, has led to all sorts of intrigue.
“I don’t think the work of the players has been recognised and I don’t think my work has been recognised,” he said, before accusing unnamed club members of only showing their faces when things were going well.
“We all received very little protection from the club, absolutely zero.”
That left Italian media including Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport wondering, is he thinking of resigning? Will the club fire him? Was he referring to any particular director, such as chief executive Giuseppe Marotta, sporting director Piero Ausilio, or even club president Steven Zhang?
Conte also said nothing had changed at Inter since an interview given by his predecessor Luciano Spalletti – an apparent reference to Spalletti’s claim there was a “mole” in the Inter dressing-room who leaked team gossip to the media.
So far, Inter have tended to back their coach. After his complaints that the squad lacked strength in depth, they signed Christian Eriksen, Ashley Young and Victor Moses in the January transfer window.
Inter’s points tally of 82, their best since the treble-winning season of 2009-10, appeared to justify the club’s faith in their volatile coach and Marotta, who previously worked with Conte at Juventus, was diplomatic in his post-match comments.
“We have to continue on this path,” he told Inter’s web site. “We’ve got a squad that have shown so much and proved that they’re up to the task, you can see the work that Conte’s done.”
Even so, with former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri already being mentioned as a possible replacement, the Inter-Conte relationship appeared to have reached some sort of crossroads.