Ranking Antonio Conte’s most loyal soldiers: Perisic, Buffon, Pirlo…
Antonio Conte is one of the last remaining true madmen in football, and while he often brings success wherever he takes to the touchline, he also brings chaos.
In an era of sporting directors and head coaches, the Italian is one of a kind. It’s his way or the highway, and if a club wants to be successful, they’ve got to be prepared to back him, often in the form of signing his favourite players and exiling those he isn’t so fond of.
Thing is, Conte has a weird taste. Like, really weird. But if he likes you, and you’ll run to no end for him, he’ll adore you forever.
Here are the players who have played under Conte the most, across several clubs.
11. Kwadwo Asamoah
The Ghanaian full-back (sort of) joined Juventus from Udinese in 2012, just after Conte had led the Old Lady to the Scudetto in his first season in charge of the club.
Asamoah instantly earned Conte’s trust with a string of fine performances early on in his first season in Turin and his transfer was made permanent, with Juve only purchasing 50% of his rights at first. Remember those deals? What a time to be alive.
Conte left Juve in 2014 but Asamoah remained at the club, racking up over 150 appearances before leaving for Inter in 2018. He briefly reunited with his former boss for a second time, but had left before he led Inter to the Serie A title, making 77 appearances under Conte across two clubs.
10. Ivan Perisic
Signing for Inter in 2015, Perisic’s career in Italy looked to have fizzled out for good after he was loaned to Bayern Munich in 2019. But upon his return to Milan a year later, he became reborn under Conte.
The Croatian took up the infamous left wing-back role in his famed 3-5-2 and was imperious as Inter lifted their first Scudetto since 2010. He remained at the club for another season before being signed by Conte for a second time at Tottenham.
A bright start fizzled out – much like Conte’s time at Spurs in general – but Perisic has continued in north London. One of his more recent soldiers, he made 78 appearances under the Italian.
9. Victor Moses
Moses looked as good as done at Chelsea in the mid-2010s having been shipped out on loan to Liverpool, Stoke and then West Ham before Conte’s arrival.
But when the Italian showed up to Cobham in 2016, Moses caught his eye in pre-season and the most unexpected yet glorious career revival was born, with the Nigerian making his first Chelsea appearance in three years that August.
The Nigerian became the shining star of Conte’s adapted 3-4-3 system and helped Chelsea to win the Premier League. After again falling out of favour at Stamford Bridge, Conte brought him on loan to Italy in the second half of the 2019-20 season, playing a rotation role for Inter.
Happy 32nd Birthday to Victor Moses 🎉
— CFC-Blues (@CFCBlues_com) December 12, 2022
8. Claudio Marchisio
A unique twist, Marchisio played under Conte at one club and the Italy national team, but we’re counting that as two because he could’ve simply not been called up.
The stylish midfielder racked up an impressive 113 appearances under the enigma that is Conte, weighing in with 33 goal contributions and notably thriving alongside the likes of Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo as Juve dominated in Serie A.
7. Andrea Barzagli
Prepare for a glut of Juventus alumni.
Barzagli headed to Turin at the beginning of 2011, joining Juve halfway through the 2010-11 campaign, but making his mark from the 2011-12 season when Conte arrived at the club.
The brutish defender very quickly grew into one of the best defenders in the country and the perfect link to Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in the back three.
The often-forgotten about name among Italian defenders, Conte was a big fan of Barzagli and made sure to include him in the national team setup when taking on the role after Juve. He ended up featuring 115 times under the boss.
6. Giorgio Chiellini
Barzagli and Chiellini ultimately set the blueprint for what Conte wanted from his defenders. Defend the goal, at all costs, and play like your life depends on it.
It actually took Chiellini a bit of time to adapt to the Italian coach when he arrived at Juve, however, with him initially playing a back four with Chiellini in a left-back position he hadn’t played for years.
After a bit of shuffling around, though, that famous back three was established and he never looked back. 117 appearances and we’re certain he’d do it all again tomorrow.
5. Andrea Pirlo
It’s quite remarkable to think that Milan were convinced Pirlo was as good as done in 2011, to the point where they let him join Juve for nothing that summer.
He was so good under Conte in Turin that people now remember him at club level for his exploits with the Old Lady, rather than his earlier excellence in Milan. That is absurd.
Not only is it a testament to Pirlo’s freakish longevity and talent, but it’s a testament to Conte for finding the perfect role for him to thrive in the setup.
He turned out 119 times for Conte and won three Serie A Footballer of the Year awards under him at Juve, while also finishing seventh in the 2012 Ballon d’Or rankings.
4. Gianluigi Buffon
It’s easy to think that Conte inherited an elite goalkeeper in Buffon upon arriving at Juve, because he did, but the story isn’t as simple as that.
Buffon had remained with the club through their various post-Calciopoli difficulties in the 2000s and his form had taken a hit as a result, but Conte’s arrival seemingly inspired the Italian stopper back to his breathtaking best and he established himself as arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in the early 2010s.
He conceded a frighteningly low 19 goals as Juve won the league in 2012-13, lifting the Scudetto as captain for the first time. 130 magnificent appearances under Conte.
3. Leonardo Bonucci
It’s time to give Bonucci his flowers. 136 appearances under Conte for Juventus and the national team, establishing himself as the rising star alongside peak Chiellini and veteran Barzagli.
He just missed the boat in playing under Conte at Pisa, but made up for it when the two were brought together in Turin in 2011, winning the Scudetto three times in a row together from 2011 to 2014.
His performances under Conte at Juve also saw him earn the captain’s armband for Italy heading into the 2014 World Cup, when the manager took charge of the Azzurri, and was again integral at Euro 2016. We’re surprised Conte didn’t try to bring him to another club later down the line.
2. Arturo Vidal
Having impressed in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus won the race to sign Vidal in 2011 despite interest from Bayern Munich.
And while he’d inevitably end up back in the Bundesliga with the German giants, he first blossomed into one of the best midfielders in the world under Conte, playing a key role in his debut season alongside Marchisio and Pirlo.
Almost 10 years on from their first encounters with one another, Conte reunited with Vidal at Inter in 2020, snapping him up from Barcelona for a nominal €1million fee and winning yet another Scudetto with the boss.
One-hundred-and-forty-one appearances, 36 goals, 21 assists and the unwavering trust of one of the game’s great managers.
1. Andrea Ranocchia
A surprise entry at number one, Ranocchia didn’t actually feature under Conte all too often, making just 64 appearances, but has worked with the manager at three different clubs and in the Italian national team – more than any other player. That’s impressive.
The pair worked together as early as 2006, when Conte was in charge of Serie B outfit Arezzo. He was sold to Genoa in 2008, but the lure of Conte proved too strong as he headed on loan to Bari for two seasons, helping them win the second tier to head to Serie A and playing alongside Bonucci.
He never had much of a career with the national team but did feature in Euro 2016 qualifying under Conte, before reuniting with his old coach one last time at Inter and proving a crucial figure behind the scenes as they won the Scudetto as the veteran at the club, despite not making any appearances that season.
Clearly someone Conte trusted heavily.