Antonio Conte, the new broom set to sweep through Chelsea this summer, is no stranger to big jobs, but at Stamford Bridge the current Italy coach and former Juventus manager is surely facing his toughest assignment yet.
Something in the Blues’ squad seems to have become infected during this traumatic season. Conte’s task is nothing less than to heal it, and turn them back into a team capable of winning the Premier League next term.
He faces no shortage of hurdles, not least in trying to ensure he has a strong enough group of players. It’s still difficult to believe, but Chelsea won’t have European football next season, and that makes it harder to lure top talent.
While that problem may only last 12 months, and London is an enduringly popular destination for players, this will be tougher than recruiting stars to Juve, who have a mystique that has forsaken the Blues recently.
Conte must also overcome cultural factors. We know he has been learning English, but we don’t know how effectively he’ll be able to communicate. He will also have to cope without a winter break for the first time.
Perhaps most significantly, the former Italy international will be entering a competition with greater strength in depth than he is used to.
In the Premier League anyone can beat anyone – and they regularly do, as this most unpredictable of seasons has demonstrated. That is simply not the case in Serie A, where he led Juventus to total dominance.
His coaching career is built on his achievements in Turin, where he took charge of a club in the doldrums and won three successive league titles in increasingly convincing fashion.
I have no doubt that Chelsea will be expecting him to preside over a similar improvement and challenge for the title immediately, particularly as they won’t be exposed to the burden of European competition.
That is a very high bar to set. And yet I think the Blues have done well to get the highly-regarded 46-year-old and I’m confident that he’ll prove to be a success in west London.
His pedigree as both a manager and a player – he won five Serie A titles and a Champions League in 14 years patrolling the Juve midfield – shows that he has extremely high standards.
Conte is used to the exceptional, and I don’t think he would have been happy to join a club whose target was merely to get back into Europe. Winning is in his blood, and I’m sure Chelsea’s hierarchy has seen that.
The fact that his appointment has been announced this week means that it has been known for some time, so he and the club have had all the time they need to lay the groundwork for his arrival after Euro 2016.
It also confirms that next year will be fascinating, with Conte’s hire, following Manchester City’s capture of Pep Guardiola, meaning the Premier League will boast many of the world’s very best coaches.