Serie A - Conte: Juve still behind Barca, Bayern

Juventus coach Antonio Conte said he did not expect the Serie A champions to close the gap on teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich and welcomed Napoli's "undervalued" manager Rafael Benitez to Italy.

Reuters
Serie A - Conte saw tired Juventus
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Antonio Conte (Reuters)

In his first pre-season news conference, Conte also highlighted Juve's "extraordinary achievement" in signing forwards Carlos Tevez for €9 (£7.76m) million and Fernando Llorente as a free agent.

Conte has won two successive Serie A titles in his two seasons at the club and said it would be "historic" if they made it a hat-trick next term.

"In the last two years, Juventus have managed to return to what they represent, a winning team. We've regained the image that the club has always held both in Italy and on a worldwide scale," he told reporters.

"Reclaiming our title was very difficult and doing it for a third year would represent a historic achievement, a feat Juventus managed between 1930 and 1935."

But Conte said challenging for the Champions League would be a different story, especially after Juve were outclassed by Bayern in last season's quarter-final which they lost 4-0 on aggregate.

He warned at the time that there was a huge gap between Italian football and Europe's biggest clubs.

"Bayern and Barcelona have reinforced even further, so it's difficult to see the gap diminishing," he said.

"We must work a great deal on the pitch, there's no way we can think about shortening the gap through signings, the others are too far ahead. We'll bring in three players for €20m (£17.24m), while the others buy one for €30m (£25.86m)."

Juventus boosted their attack by signing Argentina forward Tevez from Manchester City for nine million euros while Spain striker Llorente was out of contract at Athletic Bilbao.

On Thursday, Juve also announced the signing of Italy defender Angelo Ogbonna from Torino.

"As far as I'm concerned, improving the quality of our strikeforce with Tevez and Llorente for just nine million euros represents an extraordinary achievement," said Conte.

"When you're bringing in players like Tevez, for nine million euros, in these times of financial crisis, you need to balance that by bringing in nine million from elsewhere, so it's inevitable there will be some sad departures."

Conte said former Liverpool, Chelsea and Inter Milan coach Benitez would be a welcome addition to Serie A.

"Napoli have hired a great manager in Benitez, a man who has won everything and is also underrated. I'm happy that foreign greats have chosen to ply their trade here," he said.

"As far as the other teams are concerned, Inter have a good squad and an excellent coach. Milan with Mario Balotelli were only defeated once, by us, in the second half of the season and he will be playing for them from the start this time.

"There's also the likes of Fiorentina in the mix, a team who can no longer be considered a provincial side following the acquisition of a player like (Mario) Gomez (from Bayern).

"(Coach Rudi) Garcia's arrival at Roma will bring plenty of enthusiasm and competence. Lazio also have a useful squad and approach the campaign on the back of last season's Coppa Italia win."

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