Pirlo credits ‘mentor’ Conte with fuelling coaching ambitions

Milan (AFP) – Juventus boss Andrea Pirlo on Saturday credited Inter Milan counterpart Antonio Conte with fuelling his coaching ambitions as the pair prepare for their first clash in Serie A.

Ex-Juve boss Conte, 51, led the Turin giants to the first three off their current run of nine Serie A titles with then midfielder Pirlo, 41, on his team.

“I learnt a lot from Conte. I’m grateful to him. He taught me so many things and made me want to be a coach, but tomorrow we will be opponents,” said Pirlo ahead of Sunday’s game in the San Siro. 

“Conte and I are two different characters, maybe that’s why we always got along well,” said Pirlo, who had never coached before taking over at Juventus, receiving his diploma just before the season kicked off.

“Great respect and great affection remain. He formed part of Juventus’ history and gave me so much.”

Inter’s hopes of winning a first ‘Scudetto’ since 2010 could depend on the game.

Inter are second, three points behind leaders AC Milan, with Juventus fourth, seven points adrift of top spot with a game in hand.

“Last year we narrowed the gap,” said Conte, whose side finished runners-up just one point behind Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus. 

“It is inevitable that Juventus must represent a benchmark, because in recent years they have dominated in Italy.”

Inter have not beaten Juventus since September 2016, a run of five defeats and two draws.

“I know him (Conte) well, he tries to take pressure off his team to put it on us but we have been winning for nine years and it is normal to have pressure,” continued Pirlo.

“They too were built to win the Scudetto, tomorrow two teams with the same ambition will face each other.

“Inter have strengthened in the summer, we have taken players for the future. 

“There are two different philosophies, but they are also two teams that will fight until the end for the Scudetto.”

Pirlo’s side are coming off a three-match winning streak including 3-1 over AC Milan in the San Siro earlier this month.

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