This is the worst case scenario in terms of pre-season preparation. Absolute worst case scenario.
Now don't expect this to be a coherent piece, because there are around a thousand things going on in my head right now, and none of them good. Lucky I was dead tired yesterday night so I slept early, otherwise I would have not gotten any sleep at all. I know some of you didn't sleep at all.
Since it's impossible to write anything with a nice flow to it, I'll just post my random thoughts as they pop up in my head in bullet points. So here goes:
1. I don't think Arturo Vidal being sold is the reason why Antonio Conte resigned. If Vidal was going to be sold, there would have been an open auction for him already. As I said, the best way to sell a player is to have a bidding war, and bidding war for high value players like Vidal should start early to invite as many potential interests as possible. Also, to say that Conte left because the management told him that they are considering selling Vidal is a bit of a contradiction. For one, if they don't mind Conte leaving, then they would have sold Vidal without telling him anyways to fund the mercato. Two, if they don't want to see Conte leaving, Conte would have told them NO and that would be the end of it. So there, I don't think Vidal being sold is the reason for Conte leaving.
2. That being said, now that Conte has left, there is no guarantee that Vidal is going to stay. I might sound like I'm just trying to cover my bases, but the fact of the matter is that for football players, a coach like Conte means a lot. If you're a player under Conte, you would either hate him or love him. Vidal loves him. Conte might have been one of the main reasons that Vidal hasn't handed a transfer request. But now that it comes to this, I think Vidal will wait until it is revealed who the next manager is (Max Allegri), then he'll probably talk to him, and maybe to Beppe Marotta & Co. as well. After that he'll make his decision. But I will be very surprised if he hasn't already asked his agent to see whether there are potential suitors out there.
3. Which brings me to my next point: who the next head coach is will say a lot about the management. Will they seek a clear temporary solution? Will they seek a potential permanent replacement and introduce a new project with him? Sadly the option is very limited at this point. I have written time and again that there is no benefit in delaying the decision of who our head coach is. Players like Vidal, Pogba, etc are coveted by the market, and will jump ship once they feel that their current ship is going to hit a rock and sink. Looking from external POV will also bring you the same conclusion: no player would like to jump to a ship in which the captain is nowhere to be seen. So yeah, there will be no big signings until the new coach is revealed. That includes Morata and Iturbe, and even Evra. Just for the record, I personally think the management will bring a temporary coach and give him a 2 year contract. Allegri? Maybe.
This last point is too long to be a bullet point so here goes.
So the most important question: Why now? For me the timing is unmistakable. I have just written a post that is basically saying, "I don't understand the mercato." I have also written a comment (somewhere in BWRAO) about Conte's contract not being confirmed yet. These two things weigh heavy in my head, and are two very important backdrops to analyzing anything Juve-related that happened recently. Conte always strikes me as someone who has a strong opinion and strong principle in doing things. I don't agree with the notion that he just made up his mind upon returning that he "no longer has the ambition and energy to continue." No, I think that's very un-Conte-like. He has never been half-assed about anything, and I doubt he has changed recently.
What I think happened is that Conte wants to improve the team, but he doesn't see how with the current squad. He understands the club's financial situation better than most of us giving him credit for. He knows we can't just walk to Madrid and buy Angel di Maria. He knows all this, and therefore he told the management in May that he doesn't think he could continue at the club any longer, that he has taken the team as far as he could. I don't believe for a second that he gave the club ultimatum or whatever. You think the guys who kicked out Alessandro Del Piero unceremoniously would give in to Conte's "ultimatum"? I don't. I think Conte was probably the most disappointed person in the world with regards to Juve's UCL result last season. And for that reason, he doesn't want to experience that again.
Another point that some of you have raised — and I agree with — is that Conte probably feels that he can no longer motivate the squad. He probably thinks that after last season's league run, these boys will no longer be motivated simply by the scudetto. They would need something bigger in order to stay motivated. And that is the Champions League. Once Conte decides that the team won't be able to say much in Europe, he probably felt that he can no longer offer anything to the players to chase anymore. And there's nothing worse than a leader who can't give you a goal (or in this case, can't give you a motivating goal).
Based on all of the above, I think what happened is that in May, Conte has told the club his decision, which was to leave the club. But the club persuaded him to change his mind, at least to see out his contract (most probably because they haven't considered his replacement). They probably convinced him to see what kind of squad they'll be building for him. And I think the management would have been very clear in saying that they're satisfied with his job, and that he's not and would not be held liable (i.e. made as a scapegoat) for the result in UCL, because they all know that UCL is not a realistic target at this point of time. Ironically, looking at this from Conte's perspective, it could be perceived as the club not being ambitious enough, willing to settle for lower than what is expected of a club like Juventus. In any case, probably because of his emotional attachment for Juve, Conte agreed to stay. But he wouldn't sign a contract just yet, because he did not feel ready to commit.
The World Cup transpired, the mercato started, yet Conte doesn't see any signs of the club moving in the direction that he wanted. Thus, he confirmed his feelings, and conveyed to the club that this time his decision is final. He's leaving, and here we are in this situation.
Looking at this, I think Conte is someone who will never be tied up to a long term project. He's living day by day, and if he doesn't see a short term goal, he'll lose motivation. For him, being in a club like Juventus means one thing and one thing only: to win. So the divorce would have happened sooner or later, really. It's just the bad timing which left a sour taste in my mouth.
Pointless to mull over spilled milk. We are where we are, and we must move forward. As I said at the beginning of the post: this is the absolute worst case scenario in terms of pre-season preparation. I don't make predictions on public, especially one that could so glaringly bite me in the ass in the future, in case my predictions went horribly wrong. But I'm making an exception right now. I'll make some predictions now:
1. We will hire a temporary coach, probably sack him mid-season, and replace him with another coach (which could be temporary or "permanent").
2. Messed up mercato. Not that it's not messed up already at this moment. Like I wrote before, the mercato this summer for me lacks a coherent strategy behind it. Conte's resignation is just the nail in the coffin. Our squad building project probably has just gone backwards for 2 seasons. If we dreamt of having the complete squad to compete in Europe in 2015-2016, well now I'm convinced we have to wait until at least 2017, if ever.
3. Because of the temporary coach, we won't be winning any silverware this season. Yes, the players we have are good enough to challenge the scudetto, but with an unclear direction (temporary coach, incomplete squad), players will not stay motivated and focused. They will all have doubts on their future at the club, and who can blame them eh? Nobody knew who their manager would be next season. Not the nicest feeling in the world.
3 1/2. If we do end up hiring a temporary coach, it might be better not to have a better-than-expected result. Otherwise the management could end up having to prolong his stay. Chelsea encountered this with Di Matteo, and it ended up badly for the club, i.e. they had planned to replace him but can't because fans wouldn't let them replace a successful coach. Awkward.
A closing statement, to be possibly expanded into another post (if I ever find the will and time to write it down): I solely blame the management for this fiasco. As a fan we can blame Conte for leaving the club at such a delicate time, but looking at things strictly from business management point of view, there is no doubt that this is the fault of the management.
Marotta is the CEO for the sporting division at Juventus, and he has to take responsibility. I can understand the difficulty in making marquee signings for Juventus at current condition, but to have the team experience this kind of uncertainty at such a critical time is, quite simply, a mistake that cannot be forgiven.
He has to go.