Given that he has constructed some of the best backlines in modern European football, and that they have been the foundations of four title wins, you can be fairly certain Antonio Conte knows a lot about two particular things: defending and management.
So, it does travel when the Chelsea boss sounds certain that John Terry has all the attributes to be a “good manager”, as he also described him as “one of the best defenders in the world”. Conte similarly praised the 36-year-old’s influence in the dressing room this season, saying he greatly helped the manager apply his ideas on the title-winners.
Terry is set to play his last game for Chelsea on Sunday at home to Sunderland, for what would be just his ninth appearance in the Premier League this season. The reality was that the defender was no longer mobile enough for Conte’s way of playing with a three at the back, but the Italian still recognised one of the finest centre-halves in the game, and noted how key his general influence was.
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“He can be a good manager,” Conte said. “He has the right personality, has great experience with many managers and has won a lot. It’s important to start your career with this at your back. Then it’s also very important to take your time to understand which is the best way for you when you finish playing football… If you ask me if he has the characteristics to be a good manager in the future, then yes, yes.
“If you are able to mix your knowledge over the many years to work with different coaches, it’s important to have your own ideas when you start to become a manager or coach yourself.”
Asked about whether his prior opinion of Terry changed from having known and worked with the Chelsea captain, Conte explained it only grew, as he recognised what a leader he was.
“I always thought of him like a champion, like a great player. For sure, John Terry is one of the best defenders in the world and I always saw him with this vision. Then, if you ask me about the human part, after this season I can tell you that he’s a really good person. When you are at the end of your career, it’s not easy to put yourself to one side and to think first about your team, and he did this. For this reason, he’s a great man before a great player.
“I like to talk about the person above all when I know the person because, when you don’t know very well the person, it’s very difficult to judge. I can tell [you] after this season my opinion about John. My opinion is a great opinion about him: I saw every day a captain, a captain on and off the pitch. His thought was always first for the team, and then for him. For this reason, he helped me a lot to transfer my ideas, my concepts [on to the team]. I have a great opinion about John.”
With Terry already having shown a lot of emotion when scoring in – and right throughout – Chelsea’s 4-3 win over Watford on Monday, Conte acknowledged how difficult it must be for him to leave the club he has always known, but the manager emphasised that it forever “be his house”.
“It’s not easy. For sure, it’s not easy. I was in another situation with [Alessandro] Del Piero in my first season at Juventus, when he finished to play with them. It’s not easy. When you are used to having a club in your life every day, and when you start your day you have the club in your mind, it’s not easy to start to think about starting a new day with this situation finished. But I think it’s right, this situation, in his mind, mustn’t finish. Chelsea will always be his house. Now he wants to play regularly, so it’s right for him to go and play. Chelsea will always be his house for him.”
John Terry celebrates his recent goal against Watford ()
Emphasising that he is looking to make “history” this season by having Chelsea become the first Premier League club to claim 30 wins out of 38 for the first time, Conte was also more comfortable about the future, as he said that his wife and daughter will finally join him in London this summer.
“Honestly, honestly, for sure this season wasn’t easy for me about my family because we decided, my wife and my daughter, they would stay in Italy to allow my daughter to finish school. But, for sure, next season our intention is to keep all the family in England and stay together. It will be a good opportunity, also, for my daughter to live in another country. To go to school in another country is a fantastic opportunity, and a great gift for her.”