Juventus coach Antonio Conte is adamant that his suspension for his alleged involvement in the Scommessopoli scandal has made him a stronger person.
The 43-year-old manager was banned from leading his side on matchdays for the past four months after being charged with failure to report two instances of match-fixing while in charge of Siena. He made his return in the Old Lady's 1-0 victory at Palermo on Sunday, though, and he believes the experience would have proven too painful a year ago - to the point that both parties would have severed ties.
"It is inevitable that it causes you pain when you're away from the pitch for such a long time, even if you get to work with the team during the week," Conte told reporters after the match. "You miss the emotions of the game, but I have been forced to face this situation, and I hope that it was at least helpful to strengthen my character.
"When you do your job with the passion and enthusiasm that I bring to it, then being out of the game after so much preparation can make you feel as if you're missing something. Of course, I prefer to train the side during the week and not attend the dugout than having nothing to do with them at all.
"I was able to get to know certain people better and the experience fortified me. There is a little positive in being behind a glass wall in the stands. If this ban had happened last year, it would’ve been the end for me and Juventus."
Conte's assistants Massimo Carrera and Angelo Alessio oversaw the club's affairs while he sat out his suspension, and the Lecce native reserved praise for the way his right-hand men handled first-team affairs in his absence.
"The team reacted in an extraordinary manner, and I thank the players, because they really are special. So is the club and perhaps so am I. I am fortunate enough to have great staff, as Massimo Carrera and Angelo Alessio did brilliantly in replacing me and giving orders from the touchline. The fact we are so in sync with each other allowed us to deal with the situation in the best way possible."
Stephan Lichtsteiner's strike proved the difference at the Renzo Barbera, but Conte insists the Bianconeri's profligacy in front of goal could have ultimately cost them.
"We have got to score more goals, and if Palermo had equalised, then we would have gone into a training camp for two days," Conte said.
"We have to be more clinical, as a free kick can change everything and that would’ve been criminal."