Antonio Conte acknowledges he has become a “pain in the a**” as he attempts to guide Inter to their first trophy in a decade.
Ahead of hosting Genoa on Sunday, Inter top Serie A after 23 games – their derby victory over Milan last week moving them four points clear of their city and title rivals.
Inter – who finished second in Serie A behind Juventus in Conte’s debut season – last won a trophy in 2010-11, clinching their seventh Coppa Italia trophy.
The Nerazzurri have already seen two opportunities for silverware slip from their grasp this campaign, finishing bottom of their Champions League group and exiting the Coppa Italia in the semi-finals.
With Milan facing a tough trip to Roma and Juve further off the pace, Inter have the chance to consolidate their lead at the top when they hunt a ninth straight home win in Serie A.
It is a feat that only Juve and Roma have managed in the last 10 seasons.
Conte has not shied away from questioning not only his own players but also Inter’s hierarchy, yet the former Italy coach believes his rather decisive style is what has helped transform Inter back into title contenders.
“When people talk about me, there is always a ‘but’. They say: ‘He is a good coach, but…’, that ‘but’ stimulates me,” Conte told Il Corriere Della Sera.
“Football is my passion. When I ended my career as a footballer, I started from the beginning with Arezzo. I had won everything as a footballer. Coach Conte had started from zero. Those who played in big clubs think they can be coaches, but it’s different.
There are three types of volleyed goals:
3) Dejan Stankovic pic.twitter.com/kjIpJihwEJ
— Inter (@Inter_en) February 25, 2021
“An opponent would have pushed for Conte to be kicked out of Inter. As an opponent, I would want to kill my enemy, in a sporting [sense].
“I’m more prepared thanks to my experiences. I was advised not to join Inter, but I like challenges, and this one is the most difficult in my career.
“It’s hard to change that mental chip. If you don’t win for 10 years, you subconsciously get used to the situation, look for excuses or blame someone else, you don’t see your limitations or flaws.
“The environment is imbued with this, it is important to work not only on the players but on every sector. So you raise the pressure and become a pain in the a**.
“This is the difference between winning and living peacefully. When I go to a club, I enter into it body and soul. I am passionate and passion makes the difference, it is contagious. If you feel the sense of belonging you give more. I don’t know if we will win, but we will do everything to succeed.
“A coach is happy when a project lasts long. If you must leave after a short while, it leaves bitterness. Making your mark and staying for many years is the most beautiful thing. I wish there were continuity in everything.”
While his determination to end Inter’s barren run is clear, Conte conceded there is one job away from club football which still entices him.
Conte managed Italy from 2014 to 2016 before leaving the role to join Chelsea, who he led to the Premier League title in 2017, and the 51-year-old is open to an Azzurri return should the possibility arise.
“Absolutely no, it gives me goosebumps to think about the national team,” Conte replied when asked if his time with Italy was over for good.
“My door will always be open to Italy.”