Picking apart how the Chelsea boss gets his message across. And amidst the touchline theatrics and apologies for his English, there is a clarity and simplicity to Conte’s communication style which should help his ideas translate into other languages.
Where Wayne Rooney’s bumfluff head-dust is a solid argument against spending thousands on a hair transplant, Conte’s bonce is proof that follicular surgery really can turn back time.
Favours Diego Simeone’s man-in-black approach to the big occasion, jazzing it up with the odd white shirt or occasional trainer. Like Simeone, looks like he’d have no qualms about doing you a severe physical discourtesy before immediately going to meet his family for a lovely dinner. Has the pale-eyed menace of a young Christopher Walken.
Accent in native language
Comes from Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, and has the accent to match. Hard “c” sounds become “g”s , “t”s become “d”s and vowels at the end of words are less pronounced than in other parts of the country.
If you fancy yourself an impressionist, try the word agghiacciante, which in Conte’s Puglian becomes something like agghiaggiande.
This means dreadful or frightful, literally like something like frozen up. It was regularly used by the Italian media following Conte’s quote – agghiacciante quello che dicono (“it’s dreadful what they’re saying”) – about the intrusive methods used by the Italian Football Federation during the calcioscommesse match-fixing scandal of 2011-12.
Level of English
Fledgling, but improving, and doing a fine job for a man who has been in the country a matter of months.
With the press Conte is guarded and relies on a controlled vocabulary. Employs Italian-style interjections, using the word “but” to punctuate sentences in a way we wouldn’t in English, but that would work for the equivalent term però in Italian.
Italians learning English often come a cropper on the vowel sounds. Italian has seven while English has around 15, yet still often favours the nothingness of the schwa (an unstressed uh sound). For Conte, that’s a lot of new distinctions to learn, so it’s no surprise if the word “draw”, for example, becomes more like “drow” in his hands.
As if that weren’t enough, English is riddled with silent letters and inconsistencies that seem almost designed to catch out speakers of a nicely phonetic language like Italian. With Conte, this manifests itself in the pronunciation of words like “deserv-ed”, “chang-ed” and in hitting both “t”s hard in the word “mustn’t”.
Our man is calm and makes plenty of eye contact with the press, although he occasionally employs defensive traits such as crossed arms and a slightly hunched stature.
During games and with his players the switch flips, and he becomes a mix of controlled and slighty-less-controlled aggression, emphasised by all the classic touchline tics: pacing, waving the arms, screaming. As he showed at Juventus, though, is more than capable of expressing that ferocity simply by speaking faster and louder.
Intense, but never long-winded. Even in Italian Conte measures his words, so we shouldn’t expect him to become more verbose as his English improves.
Those few words get results though. Witness this from Andrea Pirlo:
“He needed only one speech, with many simple words, to conquer both me and Juventus. He had fire running through his veins and he moved like a viper. ‘This squad, dear boys, is coming off two consecutive seventh-place finishes. It’s crazy. It’s shocking. I am not here for this, so it’s time to stop being so crap.’…
When Conte speaks, his words assault you. They crash through the doors of your mind. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said: ‘Hell, Conte said something really spot-on again today.'”
To capture Conte’s fury at its uncorked best, we leave you on this from the 2016 Euros. It comes at a point in the Italy-Belgium game when an Italian midfielder gave the ball away cheaply.
Vi ammazzo tutti means “I kill you all”, and it’s worth noting that the use of ammazzare – rather than synonym uccidere – implies a particularly bloody and violent end.
It’s also worth noting that this death-threat came when his Italy side were winning 1-0.