When Sir Alex Ferguson descended on Turin for Wednesday’s Europa League final, he took his seat next to a familiar figure at the Juventus Stadium - Antonio Conte.
The pair was spotted in conversation throughout the match, and predictably questions were immediately raised as to the topic of discussion.
A report from Sport Mediaset popped up the next day claiming that the Scot had come to Italy to present a €32 million (£26m) bid for Arturo Vidal from Manchester United.
United have been heavily linked with the Chilean for months, even though he signed a new contract with the Bianconeri in December and publicly affirmed his commitment to the cause. But Sport Mediaset’s report suggested for the first time that interest from the Red Devils is concrete.
What has been ignored, however, is Conte’s key role in determining Vidal’s future with the Old Lady. The Italian coach has locked up a third straight Serie A title this term, although he is still yet to commit to Juventus for next season.
It’s not the first time Conte has played coy this way. Last May he adopted the same tone, refusing to say whether he would remain in Turin - but ultimately he would, going on to win another championship.
Conte’s reason for holding out at the moment is the same as it was 12 months ago. He wants guarantees that the Juventus hierarchy will invest in the squad during the summer to continue building a dynasty. And as vital as getting new signings is for the coach, retaining his current crop of stars is equally important. This is where Conte factors into United’s reported interest in Vidal.
It could be said that no player encapsulates Conte’s brand of football quite like Vidal - tenacious and intense, but with an abundance of technical quality.
Conte wants his squad to improve to settle his unfinished business in the Champions League, and losing a key piece in Vidal would be counterintuitive.
It’s hard to see Juventus not meeting the coach’s demands and letting him walk away with the groundwork already laid for an assault on Europe. And assuming Conte stays, logically so would Vidal at his request.
The Chile international is certainly the perfect man for United’s midfield, but even more so is a staple of the Old Lady and a talisman of Conte’s Juventus side.
If Sir Alex genuinely was in Turin on a mission for Vidal, then the irony is that he was sitting next to and chatting with the man who would be standing in his way.
Conte’s ambitions represent a major stumbling block for United in the pursuit of Vidal. And should he indeed extend his tenure at Juventus, then it seems highly unlikely that Vidal will be plying his trade in England next season.