Alex Keble argues that Antonio Conte's excellent league record with Chelsea and Juventus, plus his tactical nous, makes him the ideal for fit for Real Madrid.
"This is why Conte – the ideal choice for a club in need of a tactical dictator with an excellent league record – has such long odds at 9/1. Back him now, before the political games ends and Cone emerges as the obvious front runner."
In the last 22 years, five different coaches have won La Liga as Real Madrid manager, and with the exception of Bernd Schuster (Los Merengues won the 2007/08 title despite losing seven games, thanks in part to Barcelona's dreadful 67-point return) each of these managers has had a demeanour of unshakeable authority.
Fabio Capello, Vicente del Bosque, Capello (again), Jose Mourinho, and Zinedine Zidane: they all have the aura of power and respectability. They all give the impression that - no matter how many Galacticos disagree with their methods - they will always be top dog.
These are vital traits for any prospective Real Madrid manager, as has been proved time and again by the notable failures in the club's recent history. No matter their respective achievements elsewhere, more mild-mannered coaches are chewed up and spat out by the club. Just ask Manuel Pellegrini, Carlo Ancelotti, Juande Ramos, or Carlos Queiroz.
Only Conte has the authority for the Real dressing room
Looking at the favourites to become the next Real manager there are few available candidates who fall in the former camp. Arsenal's gutless final decade under Arsene Wenger (9/2) suggests the Frenchman won't be capable of controlling Los Blancos, Guti (5/1) doesn't share Zidane's born-leader persona, and Max Allegri (14/1) is increasingly unlikely to leave Juventus. That Mauricio Pochettino remains the 3/1 favourite despite having ruled himself out is indicative of the scarcity of top-level managers currently on the market.
Which leaves Antonio Conte, priced at 9/1 on Betfair, as the standout candidate. The Italian is exactly the kind of tactically fastidious, maniacally charismatic leader that will tame the egos inside the Bernabeu. He also, crucially, boasts an impeccable league record at a time when Real Madrid are desperate to improve their La Liga performances.
Conte's domestic record makes him the perfect choice
Incredibly, Real Madrid have won just two of the last ten La Liga titles; an unforgivable domestic record for a club that's won three of the last four Champions Leagues. It also suggests that Florentino Perez will be seeking a manager with a track record of performing well over a 38-game league season, particularly with Barcelona set to invest heavily this summer. Another season accruing 76 points will not be tolerated.
Why, then, is Conte not being touted more readily by pundits to succeed Zidane? The 48-year-old has won four league titles in his last five years as a club manager, lifting the Scudetto in three consecutive years at Juventus between 2011 and 2014 before joining Chelsea two years ago. His debut campaign in England, in which he amassed a then-record 30 wins to lift the title at a cantor, should be hailed as one of the greatest achievements in the Premier League in the 21st century.
Chelsea might have only finished fifth in 2017/18, but this is par for a club of their resources; Conte's underwhelming second year further highlights his brilliance the year before. In both Italy and England, Conte has shown a ruthlessness, efficiency, and watertight tactical organisation that works most effectively during the slog of a league campaign. This is exactly what Real Madrid need to become a major force in La Liga again.
Greater tactical clarity is needed after Zidane
Sceptical Real fans would argue that Conte's tactics are too defensive and reactive for their club, evoking the often fractious tenures of Mourinho and Capello. But detailed tactics is exactly what this squad needs after two-and-a-half under Zidane, who championed individuality over complex team-oriented systems.
Like it or not, Conte-style football is the broccoli Real have to force down every few years to re-ground themselves. A cycle of idealistic attacking football - with mixed success - followed by military-grade tactical dogma that disappoints the fans but wins trophies; this is the formula that has sustained Real for two decades. Conte is the right man for the hard work needed following Zidane's hands-off approach.
What's more, a dramatic change of system - namely to a 3-4-2-1 formation - would be refreshing for Spanish football generally. Atletico Madrid and Barcelona's respective tactics haven't changed too much in recent years, albeit Barca's possession football has faded into incoherence for the last couple of seasons. It is easy to envisage Conte finding success in year one at Real just as he did at Chelsea - by implementing a system that nobody else in the country has seen before. The element of surprise, and novelty, played a big part in his 2016/17 Premier League victory.
Politics and good business explain why his odds are 9/1
Chelsea have hit an awkward stalemate. Maurizio Sarri's contract situation has created a blinking contest between Napoli and Chelsea that could drag on for another week or so, which explains why Conte is still currently under contract. The Italian is waiting to be given the sack - and the healthy redundancy package he would miss out on if he resigned.
Eventually, Chelsea will either hire Sarri or move on, which should set the wheels in motion for Conte's dismissal (or, if Roman Abramovich decides to stick with what he's got, force Conte to take action and resign). It is only at this point that Real will begin seriously looking at the Italian. It makes no business sense to publicly approach Conte now, since to do so would guarantee Abramovich hangs onto the Italian - and thus receive compensation from Real.
In short, it's a game of politics that might not progress for a little while yet. Everyone is keeping their cards close to their chest, waiting for someone else to make the first move that sparks a chain reaction of managerial appointments. This is why Conte - the ideal choice for a club in need of a tactical dictator with an excellent league record - has such long odds at 9/1. Back him now, before the political games ends and Conte emerges as the obvious front runner.