26th September, 2022
Dejan Kulusevski believes Antonio Conte’s coaching style has been critical in his personal improvement at Tottenham after stagnating with Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus.
Kulusevski rose to prominence during the 2019-20 season when on loan at Parma from Atalanta, with his form in the first half of that campaign persuading Juve to spend €35million on him.
Although he played 55 Serie A games for the Bianconeri after linking up with them ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, Kulusevski struggled to find the same prominence and consistency he enjoyed at Parma.
Spurs struck a deal in January to take the Sweden international on loan for 18 months, and the agreement will become permanent for £29.2m (€32.6m) if certain sporting criteria are met.
Kulusevski quickly made an impression – from the date of his signing until the end of the season, no player registered more assists than his eight in the Premier League, while Kevin De Bruyne (17), Son Heung-min (20) and Harry Kane (21) were the only three individuals to tally more goal involvements than the Swede’s 13 over the same period.
Similarly, his three assists this season is third to only De Bruyne (six) and Bukayo Saka (four) – he is finding his feet, and he does not think he could have found such comfort had he stayed at Juventus.
“In football sometimes things simply go wrong,” Kulusevski told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I have not changed anything about myself in recent months: mentally I went always to go on the pitch and gave my best.
“At Juve, however, it didn’t work beyond what I tried to do. I didn’t feel great for so many different reasons and when you realise that things are not right, then it’s difficult to reverse course by staying in the same environment.
“So, the choice to leave Italy was the best I could have made in that situation.
“In England I am great, everything is better than in Turin, both on and off the pitch. As I said, now I really always want to play football.”
Kulusevski has no doubt what the key difference is: Conte.
While he did not want to disparage Allegri, Kulusevski feels he has reacted positively to Conte’s demands, which have in turn got the best out of him.
Asked if there was a big difference between Allegri and Conte, the winger said: “Honestly, yes.
“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 job and the ideas of football are completely different.
“At Tottenham, you struggle a lot more in the gym and you can see the results. I can say that from Juve to Spurs, the world changed for me.
“I have never met in my life, even outside of football, a motivated person like Antonio Conte. When he speaks to you, he enters your heart by force.
“At Tottenham my body changed – mainly thanks to the exercises in the gym – in no time. We work a lot every day and better than I did in Italy.
“I love how we train in London and for sure the credit goes to our coach: I’m very happy to play for him.”