Murmurings of Antonio Conte’s departure from Chelsea this summer are hard to believe. Without even the chance to make a mark on the European stage, the Italian – despite potentially winning a double in his debut season – will have unfinished business in west London. That does not stop the noise of a return to Italy for the former Juventus manager, however.
Should he leave Stamford Bridge, an early favourite for the job would be Atletico Madrid’s club icon, Diego Simeone. The Argentine has taken the Spanish club from top half club to elite European competitors and builds teams in a way that many a Chelsea side have been since the investment of Roman Abramovich in 2003.
One of Chelsea’s fiercest rivals, however, should be moving to recruit the Atleti boss way before Chelsea can even consider it. Arsenal are at a point when cutting ties with Arsene Wenger seems the only option and – in a weak managerial market – Simeone is the best attainable option. Max Allegri, Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte would have been desirable, but each of the bosses have plenty to do at their current clubs, while Jurgen Klopp is set for years in the Liverpool hot seat.
Simeone is the archetypal Chelsea boss. Building on an organised, solid defence and an evidently emotional, heart-on-sleeve type of manager, Simeone is cut from the cloth of Jose Mourinho and Conte. In sharp comparison, Wenger’s reputation has – for the most part – been built on a calm, relaxed persona. A man constantly thinking, but seldom reactionary, Wenger is a philosophical thinker of the sport, vastly opposed to the win at all costs minds of Mourinho, Conte and Simeone.
Arsenal – as many would rush to tell you – need to dabble in the winner mentality a little. FA Cup triumphs of late have fooled few, Arsenal are an enormous club with financial clout, yet they are not a side to be feared in the closing weeks of a season domestically or in Europe.
It may sacrifice the aesthetic glow that Arsenal have prided themselves on under Wenger, but there is no doubt Simeone would make them a fiercely competitive unit. His Atletico Madrid side have punched several groups above their weight for successive years and are lined up to face their arch city rivals in the semi-finals of the Champions League having been within minutes of lifting the trophy themselves.
Learning from Chelsea might not be a good way to proposition the move to Arsenal fans, though Simeone’s suitability for the Blues shows how good an appointment he would be for Arsenal. A ruthless decision maker, who would surely bring enough of a decorated CV to keep Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez at the club, there are no better alternatives at this juncture for Arsenal.
It might not be this summer that the Argentine leaves Atleti, he might already have his heart set on a move to Inter Milan, but Arsenal must at least consider him as Wenger’s successor.