Football: There's life after Conte

Football: There's life after Conte
Interview with Juventus player Patrice Evra.

As a player and coach, Antonio Conte has been such an important part of the Juventus fabric, winning a total of eight Serie A titles.

Despite the shock resignation of the 45-year-old last month, new signing Patrice Evra and Ghana defender Kwadwo Asamoah are optimistic that the Old Lady can still win titles without their talismanic figure.

They also gave their full backing to new coach Massimiliano Allegri, who took over the reins from Conte.

"Coaches come and leave. The most important is the club never change, and the players are still here," 33-year-old Frenchman Evra, who joined Juventus after nine years with Manchester United, told The New Paper yesterday.

The duo stopped over at Changi Airport with their teammates before flying off to Australia for a friendly against the A-League All Stars on Sunday after beating Indonesia All-Stars 8-1 on Wednesday.

The Serie A champions will then take on a Singapore Selection side in the new National Stadium next Saturday.

Similar situation

Interestingly, Evra finds himself in a similar situation as he was in a year ago at Man United, when Sir Alex Ferguson was replaced by David Moyes.

Last season, the Red Devils not only lost their crown but also finished seventh, an unprecedented low in the Premier League era.

"The Juventus players want to prove that we can still win without Conte. We want to win with Allegri," said Evra.

"This is the philosophy of the club - we want to win and I don't think there's going to be a big change.

"Thanks to Conte for what he's done for the club and what he's achieved. I think he is one of the greatest managers but now, we have to move on and be behind Allegri and make sure we win as many trophies as we can.

"Winning the league for the fourth time in a row will be the hardest challenge yet."

Asamoah, the 25-year-old Ghanaian who won two Serie A titles under Conte, added: "The two title-winning seasons with Conte have been very good for my career.

"I was a central midfielder before but, with Conte, I find myself playing on the left wing for the first time.

"And, even if it's something I didn't like, the more I did it, it became something I liked. Now I cannot even say my preferred position is in central midfield.

"I haven't seen much difference between Conte and Allegri. They are good coaches with great personalities.

"The two title-winning seasons with Conte have been very good for my career. With the new coach, it's been just more than a week, and everything is going perfectly.

Great player

"Patrice is a great player who has played for one of the biggest clubs in the world, but I don't see him as competition. We have so many games to play and we all want to help the team achieve the best results."

While they have dominated the Serie A the past decade, Evra feels that Juventus will be treated as a European powerhouse again only if they win the Champions League for the first time since 1996.

"It's really important to win the Champions League," said the Frenchman. "When you want to get some respect in Europe, it's not enough to just win the league. You also have to win the Champions League.

"That's one of my targets with Juventus. I've won it once, I've played four times in the final and, of course, this is one of my challenges at Juventus."

Evra: United wanted to make me captain

Manchester United still have a special place in Patrice Evra's heart even though he left the Red Devils for Juventus after nine seasons at Old Trafford.

He told The New Paper yesterday: "I was broken-hearted to leave (United). They were like my second family.

"They really wanted to keep me because I was such an important player for Man United. And they wanted to make me official captain as well.

"It's hard to quit Man United. They know the reason why I left, but I don't want to explain. I'm happy to be at Juventus now and my mentality is the same - to win."

Evra will be reunited with former United striker Carlos Tevez in Turin, and he said: "Carlito is a very close friend, on and off the pitch.

It really broke my heart when he joined Manchester City. I remember I was not really very happy with him.

"But we are back together, we are here to win, we are going to try everything to help the team to win."

davidlee@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Aug 8 in The New Paper.


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