In many eras, a choice of whether to go to Juventus or Tottenham Hotspur was never really much of a debate.
Juve may be the team everyone loves to hate in Italy, but their global prominence in the game is up there with the finest and there is an almost uncountable list of world renowned legends that have either played or managed the giants from Turin – Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Michel Platini to name just three across different periods.
Juventus have 36 league titles and two Champions League successes – just in case you need silverware to back up their pedigree.
Tottenham, of course, are a big club in their own right too but two league titles, a couple of UEFA Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup is the best of their rather dusty trophy cabinet – we are not comparing like for like here. Deciding where to go and further your career as a professional should be a fairly simple choice.
For Antonio Conte, it could be argued it’s even easier. A proud Italian being offered a potential return to the Allianz Stadium where he has won Serie A eight times as a player and a manager, as well as the Champions League during his days in their midfield, should hardly require a moment’s thought to weigh up his options.
Conte has recently been linked with a return to Juventus, who he left in 2014 after winning Serie A three years running to take charge of the Italian national team. He has less than a year to run on his current Spurs deal, so his ties to the north London side are thin.
But despite all of this, Conte would have to be mad to leave the project he has going at Spurs to move back to the Old Lady, who appear to be unravelling into a storm of chaos.
Juventus have been stumbling in recent seasons, and in Max Allegri, another previous Turin favourite who has returned last year after two years away to try and revive their fortunes, they have stuttered out of the blocks in Serie A.
With seven games gone they have won just twice and lie in eighth – catastrophic for Juve – and are already seven points off early pace setters Napoli and Atalanta. In the Champions League they have lost both of their opening games.
Of course it’s still early in the season but alarm bells were ringing at the weekend when they were beaten 1-0 by Monza, who are playing in the Italian top flight for the first time in their history.
While there has been no suggestion Allegri is about to become an early season managerial casualty in Turin, reports in Italy suggest Conte is ‘open’ to a Juventus return.
Conte has been back in Turin, in the city where his wife and daughter still live, relaxing at his home in Liguria during the international break before diving back into his Tottenham commitments.
Indeed, part of the allure of returning to his homeland would be to spend more time with his family. This would be a strong pull for the Spurs boss to return home – even if he enjoys his London residence.
Conte has previously said he has ‘unfinished business’ at Juventus and is the No 1 pick for the club’s board, which includes former team-mate Pavel Nedved.
Nedved is a great admirer of Conte and has tried to bring him back to Turin. Conte remains popular with the Juve board, but he would have to repair relations with Andrea Agnelli following a controversial incident where he raised his middle finger to the club president last year.
Conte made the offensive gesture during a Coppa Italia clash while he was in charge of Juve’s rivals Inter Milan, but escaped punishment following a post-match investigation.
Italian outlet RAI reported that Conte directed a middle finger gesture at Agnelli at half-time and then following the full-time whistle. The ecstatic Juve chief raced from his seat down towards the Inter bench and was heard shouting: ‘f*** off, shut up you a***hole’.
Agnelli and Conte have had a bitter relationship since Conte decided to leave and this is a significant hurdle that would have to be overcome should the Spurs boss return to Turin.
But it’s just one in a number of reasons why a Juventus return would not be wise.
The squad is nowhere near the standard to the one he left behind nearly a decade ago. The Bianconeri are now an ageing side in need of fresh blood, with key stars including Leonardo Bonucci in the final years of their career.
Conte’s high demands and training sessions are likely to do more harm than good to the existing squad he would be poised to take over. There are still gems in the team that would likely flourish under Conte’s tutelage, including Filip Kostic and star forward Federico Chiesa, though.
Conte would also likely have to take a significant paycut to join Juventus. He earns around 30 per cent more than Allegri, and the club’s accounts are already looking fragile. They would certainly become strained to a great degree should they match his Tottenham wages, which including his backroom team would cost nearly £8million a year – among the most expensive in Europe.
The feeling is that Juventus can no longer guarantee a very high salary budget for the coach and this financial problem could be an insurmountable obstacle to Conte’s potential return.
He expects the best financial package as one of the game’s best managers. Juventus would presumably be available to negotiate a two-year agreement, but they may also have to factor in an even greater salary demand from Conte, whose financial expectations tend to increase with every team he takes over.
It’s not just Agnelli who Conte will have to mend relations with either, with elements of the fanbase also despising him.
The section who hate Conte has grown since he chose to accept a role at Inter. His return to Turin could be tormented by this ‘original sin’ but it could be overcome as always with a great series of immediate victories that would allow Conte to regain the overall appeal of Juventus fans.
But it’s not all about what he is signing up for, it’s also what he could leave behind.
Conte’s stock was already high in England prior to joining Tottenham having previously won the Premier League title in dominant fashion with Chelsea in 2017. Spurs were in crisis when he arrived in November having sacked predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo after a poor start to the season.
By the turn of the year, Conte had his side well drilled to the point that they became one of the form teams of 2022, rewarding them with a return to the Champions League after a fourth place finish.
The fact they did it at the expense of rivals Arsenal made it even sweeter for supporters, who unlike a portion of Juventus fans are almost unanimous in admiration for the Italian, regularly singing his name at matches.
Conte’s team are clicking, with Spurs enjoying one of their best starts to a Premier League season that see them sit third with an impressive 17 points after seven games.
Like the fans, Conte is highly regarded by his squad including stars like Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, and his methods on and off the pitch appear to be getting the best out of his players.
Dejan Kulusevski has already said he is ready to ‘suffer’ Conte’s high demands.
‘When I came here, the training here was much more different from Italy – in a very good way,’ he said following his January arrival.
‘People are running faster, everything is faster to try to get us stronger. So it was very good because that’s what I need – I need my body to feel alive so I can think faster with my head.
‘He has very good training, very good tactics, his staff are fantastic, he works a lot, he explains things, if you don’t understand, he explains them again.
‘Having Conte is just very, very good. He’s a winner and I want to be a winner, so I think I’m on the right side.’
Conte is also enjoying a productive relationship with club chairman Daniel Levy, who backed the Italian with a £150m transfer kitty over the summer that facilitated the signings of the likes of Richarlison and Yves Bissouma, and the permanent arrival of highly-rated defender Cristian Romero.
That’s not forgetting the Italian links between him and Levy too, with former Juventus chief Fabio Paratici director of football at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
To swap all that for what will be pandemonium at the Allianz Stadium without guaranteed success doesn’t appear to be the wisest of career moves.
Spurs may not have the history of Juventus, but right now they have the edge on them in nearly every area. The choice of Tottenham or Juventus is just not much of a debate.