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Is Antonio Conte the right man for Real Madrid?

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Conte edging closer to a return to football

There's been a number of surprises and shocks already in the 2018/19 campaign but not many really come close to that of underperformance of Real Madrid. The reigning Champions League holders came into the new campaign without two club icons in Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo who've both moved onto pastures new. The world has been watching to see how they cope without the pair and as of yet they haven't done it, which has led to some huge speculation around the managers position.

Julen Lopetegui was the man hired to replace Zidane and continue the clubs dominance in Europe, but after just 14 games it looks like he's set to receive his marching orders. Just 6 wins from those opening games sees them languishing down in 9th position in La Liga and they ended the weekend with a humiliating 5-1 hiding from table toppers Barcelona - so it looks like the axe is going to be wielded by club president Florentino Perez. There's a number of names linked with the potentially vacant managerial position but the runaway one is former Chelsea man Antonio Conte. The Italian has been backed into 1/10 on SkyBet and his returned to management could be announced within a couple of days - but is he the right man to take Los Blancos forward? Read our views here..

Antonio Conte
Conte's crazy touchline antics look set to return in Spain

Real Madrid lacking direction

Antonio Conte hasn't been in the world of management for too long but he's already achieved a lot in the game. He enjoyed a magnificent career as a player and he's brought that winning mentality through to the touchline, picking up domestic titles and cups in his native Italy with Juventus and Bari along with Chelsea in England. He's a man with a distinctive playing style and personality, which has seen him make a few enemies but few can argue with the results when looking at his CV.

At Juventus, Chelsea and the Italian national team he had some big egos to manage which on the whole he's done well, but coming to Real Madrid it will be a massive challenge. The Champions League holders possess some world class players but keeping them all happy and motivated will be a difficult challenge, as Julen Lopetegui has discovered. This current Los Blancos side looks like a shadow of the one that secured a third successive Champions League title over Liverpool in May, with several key personnel a million miles away from the level expected.

Marcelo Real Madrid
Marcelo is one of a few players to start the season with any credit, scoring 3 goals in 4 games for Real - which highlights their goalscoring problems

Getting the best out of the likes of Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Isco and Gareth Bale is going to be absolutely paramount to him doing a good job - with these 5 being singled out by many for under performing. But they're certainly not alone, the team as a whole has been immensely disappointing and something needs to change quickly, which a switch in management could do.

This Real Madrid side is in need of some investment but there's still more than enough quality to turn their season around and compete again for major silverware. The Champions League is still young, they should progress through their group and with La Liga being just 10 games old, they have the potential to catch up Barcelona. But in order to do that Conte needs to make a fast start and it's going to be interesting to see how he tackles the role. At each of his clubs he's opted for an extremely rigid 3-4-3 system which has delivered an awful lot of success but it won't be popular with the Madridista's, who demand attacking free-flowing football. This is a system that will seem alien to the majority of Real players and with him being thrown into fire without a full pre-season, he may have to re-adjust his philosophy slightly as wholesale changes could be even more catastrophic.

Managing egos key to success - including his own

Conte has an impressive CV and the thing that will stand out most to Florentino Perez is what he achieved in the Premier League with Chelsea. He took a side that stumbled to a 10th placed finish to the title in the space of just 12 months, so he clearly has the ability to turn things around at the Bernabeu. But one major criticism was some of his erratic behaviour which resulted in him falling out with several key figures at Stamford Bridge, both on and off the pitch. He made his feuds with owner Roman Abramovich and then technical director Michael Emenalo public knowledge, citing his lack of a say in the clubs transfer dealings a major problem - something that could happen again in the Spanish capital.

But something that will concern Madridista's is his affinity with some of Chelsea's key players. He didn't see eye-to-eye with the likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Thibaut Courtois and Diego Costa - with the latter definitely the most high profile of all. The bruising Spanish striker was told via text by Conte that he was no longer needed by the club which led to him going on strike - something which Perez simply won't tolerate at the Bernabeu. It'll also be interesting to see how Courtois takes to the news of his former manager linking up with him after only moving from Stamford Bridge to Spain a couple of months ago for £35m. There has been reports that he's unhappy with his possible appointment but whether this will impact on his performances it's another matter - although he has struggled so far.

Diego Costa Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte's relationship with Diego Costa made headlines for all the wrong reasons, he can't afford a repeat in Spain

But with Real Madrid well off the pace domestically at the moment, he can't afford to get off to a bad start when meeting his players. There are some strong personalities in the dressing room who aren't used to losing games, so he needs to get his ideas across as quickly as possible whilst keeping them onside. This is something that Lopetegui has clearly struggled to do but Conte will be confident that he can get the likes of Ramos, Modric and Kroos all responding positivity to his techniques.

No details have been leaked on the length of his possible contract as of yet. He could potentially just be another stopgap until the summer when they launch another move for Mauricio Pochettino or Massimiliano Allegri which would mean he wouldn't have too much of a say in transfers in the winter window. They're rumoured to hold a strong interest in one of his former players, Eden Hazard, who enters the last year of his contract next summer and he may be un-willing to link up with his former boss, which will certainly please Chelsea supporters.

The right man for Real?

The million dollar question. One thing for sure is that something needs to change and fast at the Bernabeu. This is Real's worst start in La Liga since 2009 and they recently went on a club record goalscoring drought which highlights just how much disarray they're currently in. Bringing in Antonio Conte to replace Julen Lopetegui will mean they're hiring someone who has a proven CV of managing clubs and achieving success - something that the current man doesn't have. Conte is known for being a strict disciplinarian and he will demand a certain level of commitment from his players which could give the players the kick up the backside they so clearly need.

It looks like Lopetegui never really got the players on side and it could be due to the controversial way he left the Spanish national team to take the job just days before their World Cup campaign began. Or it could be something slightly more worrying. This Real Madrid side has won every major honour over the last few years and it's been a settled team that's achieved it all. Could the players just lack the motivation to go again and win the same trophies again, are they mentally drained? Playing for a club the side of Real Madrid comes with huge pressure but Conte will believe he can get that top level back out of these players. One thing for sure it's going to be an interesting ride with him in charge and if he makes a fast start, they'll be a force to be reckoned with again.

He's been the clear front-runner for some time now but according to the odds he has a rival for the position in Real Madrid B boss Santiago Solari. The Argentine played for Los Blancos for 5 years between 2000-05 and is still held in high regard by the clubs hierarchy, so he could provide a decent interim appointment. However, with a win percentage of just 37% as B team boss he doesn't boast the rich CV or the experience that Conte does, so it would represent something of a gamble to bring him in - regardless of him being on a short term contract or not. So it looks like the Italian is the much safer option for Florentino Perez as he bids to get the whites back on track.