Dejan Kulusevski has been talking to the media again, and as we’re quickly learning, that’s always a pretty good read. This time, he’s been speaking to the Italian media while on international duty with Sweden, and talking about his relationship with Antonio Conte.
In comments given to Gazzetta dello Sport (via Football.London), Deki talked about the difference between his time at Juventus, where he struggled, and at Tottenham Hotspur, where he has thrived, becoming a key player.
“I don’t know, in football things are simply bad. I have not changed anything about myself in recent months: mentally I went and I always go on the pitch to give my best. At Juve, however, it didn’t work beyond what I tried to do.
“I’m a guy who likes to look forward, rather than backward. Certainly at Juventus I didn’t feel great for many different reasons and when you realize that things are not going well, then it is difficult to reverse the course remaining in the same environment. So the choice to leave Italy was the best I could have made in that situation.
“In England I feel great, everything is better than in Turin, both on and off the pitch. As I said, now I always want to play football and to win for my team.”
The main difference? Antonio Conte. Deki hit the ground running from the moment he set foot in London, and it has seemed like he fit naturally into Conte’s tactics from day one. Kulusevski did not want to get drawn into comparisons between Conte and Max Allegri, who has been under a great deal of pressure this season at Juventus to the point where his seat has become a little warm. But when asked, he did say that there’s a big difference in the way the two managers approach the game.
“Honestly yes [there’s a big difference]. I don’t want to say that one is better than the other, because I have great respect for both Allegri and Conte and both have won a lot in their careers, but the work and the idea of football are completely different. At Tottenham, as I have already said, you struggle a lot more in the gym and you can see the results. I can say that from Juve to Spurs my world has changed and one thing must be said about Conte.
“I have never met in my life, even outside football, a motivated person like Antonio Conte. One like this, when he speaks to you, enters your heart by force.”
I love that phrase — “enters your heart by force” — because it sounds both extremely painful and also exactly like something Conte would try to do to his players. Deki is (obviously) speaking metaphorically and it’s likely some sort of idiomatic phrase that loses a bit in translation, but I also think that if it were physically possible for Conte to take his instructions and physically jam them into his players’ sternums with his bare hands, he’d do it.
Deki’s a great interview. He’s bellicose and clearly intelligent, especially in his native Swedish or in Italian, and his interviews are usually full of fun anecdotes turns of phrase. It’s also great that he’s getting along with Conte so well. Honestly, Conte should just bring Deki along to every press conference from now on.