Spending a Monday afternoon at Stanford with Antonio Conte and Juventus

Claudio Villa

In short: Good times. Really good times.

I don't like to make a lot of posts around these parts solely about me. And it's pretty easy why: This blog isn't about me, it's about Juventus. I may talk about myself, but that's not the main point of something that involves fingers being put to keys and then 'publish' being pushed a short time later.

Warning basically right out of the gate: This post is going to be about me...and Juventus.

The last — and only — time I've seen Juve in person before was in the summer of 2010, just days after Juve finished what had been the first of two straight seventh-place finishes. There weren't many things to remember from that game other than seeing Alessandro Del Piero live and playing in front of my own two eyes and Amauri scoring Juve's only goal and then wearing the captain's armband.

Okay, so maybe the first is a little more important than the second, but I digress.

Monday afternoon underneath the sun in Palo Alto wasn't a day that involved facepalming at Juventus. Nothing even close to that, really. I was lucky enough, thanks to the incredibly awesome folks at the Juventus press office, to drive 45 minutes south to the campus of Stanford University and watch an Antonio Conte-led training session. Not just any kind of Antonio Conte training session, but the afternoon workout of what has been an incredibly active week thus far in the Bay Area as they ramp up for the U.S. tour and subsequent season that follows.

I walked not knowing what exactly to expect other than a training session would happen.

I walked out knowing that I shook hands with God minutes before I got into my car.

It would be easy to say "I'm a guy who lives thousands of miles away so I never get to see training anyways" or something like that. But that's the case. We watch these guys every weekend and a very small number of us in this world have the opportunity to see what was right in front of me.

There was Conte, Gigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio, Carlos Tevez, and Giorgio Chiellini. Other than Paul Pogba, all of the faces you'd expect to be there were training just a few feet in front of me. It wasn't like that the last time I saw Juventus — a depleted team with a depleted roster because of the World Cup. It wasn't even close to being the kind of squad that you'd expect during a U.S. tour, but there they were. But fast forward three years, and it was a completely different story and atmosphere around the team.

For some, a Juventus training session may not exactly be all that special. But it's not that often that Juventus are in California and just mere minutes away from where I grew up. Hey, I could have done a lot of other things that would have made it a less exciting Monday afternoon.

The mission of the afternoon's training session?

Tactics. Tactics. And then some more tactics thrown in.

For 90 minutes it was all tactics, as Conte — sometimes standing right in the middle of all the action — was non-stop in his giving out of directions no matter what the drill was. And at the other end of the field, goalkeeper coach Claudio Filippi worked with a bit of a smaller group, blasting short-range shots and Buffon, Marco Storari and the rest of the bunch. Let's just say this: If you wanted to watch the keepers, you'd be missing Conte at work, and vice versa. There was so much to see and it seemed like there wasn't enough time to take it all in.

It was intense, but the players are obviously enjoying their trip to the West Coast. Luca Marrone's splendid goal to end things was brought with big cheers from his teammates and even a couple of big bear hugs. And by the look on some of the players' faces when they walked out of the locker room after the day's was finally done, they're working their tails off in the process, too.

MEANINGFUL TRAINING SESSION THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS

- Whenever we've watched Martin Caceres in a Uruguay jersey, he's a left back. We know he can play anywhere in defense, but for his country he's a left back. It's been that way for a pretty good amount of time now and it's where he played during the Confederations Cup last month. Much to my surprise, as Juventus worked out just about 48 hours before their U.S. tour opener against Everton, Caceres was being deployed as a left wingback. I'm not sayin', but I'm just sayin', guys and gals.

- I may or may not have been the first one to assume that when Angelo Ogbonna was signed from Torino, he would be the natural backup for Chiellini on the left side of Juventus' three-man defense. But as the squad broke into an 11 v. 11 scrimmage, there was Ogbonna basically doing what he has been since he finalized his cross-town move — working in the middle of the defense. When we saw it during last week's friendlies, I thought to myself "Yeah, but the rest of the squad isn't back from vacation yet. Let's see what happens then." Well, now they are...

- That, in turn, could very well mean Marrone is back to being a full-time midfielder again — and that, in the grand scheme of things, could be a very good development as we move closer to the season getting underway.

- This is nothing officially close to being an actual fact, but Conte talked in one form or another for almost the entire time I was watching training. It wasn't just hammering home the tactics that they were working on during the course of the 90-minute training session, but it was also supporting his players. You can see why so many players love playing for and respect Conte. The term "player's coach" gets thrown around a lot no matter what sport it is, but Conte is exactly that. Whenever Conte is giving directions, there's only one person talking — Antonio Conte.

OTHER RANDOM TRAINING SESSION THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS

- Andrea Pirlo's beard is even that much more magnificent when seen in person.

- The ladies already love Fernando Llorente. Maybe it's the new bandage above his left eye? Not too sure. Gonna have to research this one.

- A couple of the people in the crowd were amazed by how short Sebastian Giovinco actually is and it made me laugh. I mean, the guy is 5-foot-5...at best.

- Caceres' high socks defy gravity and I am done trying to figure out why.

What am I trying to say with all this? Get to a Juventus training session if you can. You won't be disappointed.

Now watch a video of yesterday's training session that I saw. It's fun. And, for the ladies, there's some Llorente, too.

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