While Antonio Conte and Victor Moses’ paths have crossed just once at Chelsea, the recent reports linking the former Blues boss with a move to Inter Milan have birthed rumors of a reunion with the former Nigeria international.
Sometimes, certain managers and players just happen to hit it off from minute one: it’s evident in Maurizio Sarri’s relationship with regista Jorginho, while Harry Redknapp seemed to take Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Niko Kranjcar with him wherever he managed.
For Conte and Moses, their two-year relationship in West London produced some of the most rewarding football in the Premier League era, especially in 2016/17. Prior to the Italian’s arrival in England, the general consensus was that formations utilizing three central defenders and wing-backs couldn’t thrive in the division.
And, in all fairness, those doubts were slightly justified: Brendan Rodgers and Louis Van Gaal’s limited success with the tactic was constantly regurgitated by critics who felt it was a lost cause in England.
No side since Harry Catterick’s Everton in 1952/53 had secured the title in England's top flight playing predominantly with a three-man defence, but Conte changed the narrative.
While several coaches tried to implement the formation, their experiments were ultimately ineffective until the Chelsea manager got it right in his first season in charge.
Expectedly, the Blues’ success with three at the back led to several coaches attempting to duplicate the formation when they faced the West Londoners, to varying degrees of success: Ronald Koeman’s Everton got hammered 5-0 by the Blues at Stamford Bridge, Pep Guardiola suffered a 3-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, while Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur side halted their rivals’ 13-game winning run to triumph 2-0 at White Hart Lane.
Chelsea eventually claimed the title, amassing 93 points (only two points short of then record of 95) after winning 30 of their 38 league games, with the transformed Moses playing a huge role in the Londoners’ success.
Conte’s time in England came at the perfect time for Moses, given the wideman had endured a frustrating three-year period of getting farmed out on loan at Liverpool, Stoke City and West Ham United before the Italian’s arrival.
After two seasons of playing regularly, though, the dismissal of the former Italy manager – who was replaced by Sarri – saw the winger pushed to the periphery yet again. Moses’ unsuitability to the new regime resulted in just two substitute league appearances by the arrival of the winter window which led to his Fenerbahce loan.
With recent reports linking Conte to the Inter job, could the wideman be rescued by the manager for the second time?
Barring his spell with the Yellow Canaries, it’s been more or less a torrid season for Moses who’d presumably jump at the chance of working with the Italian again, owing to how successful it went the first time.
He hasn’t pulled up trees since moving to Turkey, either, but perhaps that was to be expected because he didn’t begin the season at the club, and joined halfway through, during a testing campaign.
For someone who was match rusty – his last game before moving was a 33-minute cameo against BATE Borisov in late October – and still expected to fire on all cylinders from the get-go as Ersun Yanal’s side battled relegation, Moses has performed reasonably well over the duration of his loan.
With Sarri unlikely to recall the wideman if he’s not dismissed after their Europa League final against Arsenal, and the new manager (if the former Napoli boss is fired) probably not fancying him, a switch to Inter could greatly benefit the former Nigeria international.
While the rebuttal could be the looming transfer ban of the West London club, as well as Eden Hazard’s likely departure, it should be noted the club still have Willian, Pedro Rodriguez, newly acquired Christian Pulisic and currently injured Callum Hudson-Odoi capable of playing in the wide positions, so a regular spot still isn’t certain at Chelsea.
In theory, the pace of the Serie A isn’t quite as fast as the English league, so Moses shouldn’t have issues adapting in that regard.
Having endured a topsy-turvy campaign themselves, a new lease of life may well beckon for I Nerazzurri if Conte comes in. After seemingly purchasing well in the summer, Luciano Spalletti’s side have faltered in the eyes of many critics who tipped them to challenge the Old Lady’s stranglehold of the division.
The dressing room strife hasn’t helped either, with the nonsense that surrounded Mauro Icardi and, to a lesser extent, Ivan Perisic threatening to soil their season.
It’s therefore not a surprise the latter has been linked with a cash-swap deal involving Manchester United, with Romelu Lukaku – who Conte reportedly wanted at Chelsea, instead of Alvaro Morata – reportedly included in the negotiations.
Securing Champions League football will be vital in everything coming together for Inter, and they can look forward to featuring in Europe’s premier club competition next season after defeating Empoli on the final day of the campaign.
For Moses, a chain of events will have to fall into place if his 18-month loan spell in Turkey will be cut short for a move to the Italian giants.
If the stars do align, lightening may yet strike twice for the former Crystal Palace man, who could be set to enjoy a new lease of life in Italy under a familiar face in Conte.