First, Antonio Conte led his team to victory. And then he led Vittoria over to meet his team. After steering Juventus to their second consecutive Serie A title, sealed with a 1-0 win at home to Palermo on Sunday, Conte scooped a little girl up in his arms and carried her out towards the pitch . It was, of course, his daughter; the one whose name is synonymous with the manager's favourite pastime.
"I like to win. History is written by the victor," said Conte on Sunday evening. "People who don't win things often generate a lot of good will, but that doesn't interest me. Taking part is important, but the reason I like taking part is so that I can try to win."
He happens to be rather good at it. When Conte was appointed as manager of Juventus in May 2011, he found himself at the helm of a club that had lost their winning habit. Five years had passed since Juve were demoted to Serie B as a punishment for their role in the Calciopoli scandal. They had bounced straight back up, finishing third in 2008 and second in 2009, but that momentum had long since been lost. They had finished seventh in each of the next two seasons.
Conte's appointment was accompanied by the rhetoric of patience and five-year plans. Instead, his team bulldozed their way to the title at the first attempt, becoming just the third team in Serie A history to go through an entire league campaign without suffering a single defeat.
That unbeaten run could not last for ever, of course, and Juventus have lost four games so far in 2012-13. And yet, with three games left to go, Conte's side need just one more draw to match last year's points tally (84). If Juve were to win all their remaining fixtures, they would break the club's all-time top-flight points record – which stands at 91.
This year's achievements become impressive still when you consider the surrounding circumstances. Unlike last season, Juventus have been competing on three fronts. The club's resources were stretched by their run to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
And then there is the small matter of Conte's four-month touchline ban. From August through to mid-December, Juventus had to make do without their manager during matches, as he served a suspension for failing to report an attempted fix during his time as manager of Siena – a charge that Conte continues to deny.
The whole experience drove him to distraction. Conte would later joke that his partner, Elisabetta, had been forced to install a dugout for him in the family home. And yet his team never faltered. By the time the manager returned to the touchline in December – for a fixture against Palermo, no less – Juve were two points clear at the top of the table.
Juventus have occupied first place (or at least a share of it) since the opening day of the season. Only twice has their hegemony come under threat. In November the club's run of 49 league games without defeat was ended by Inter, who closed to within two points – but then promptly began to implode. In February Napoli blew their chance to put the pressure on Juve when they drew 0-0 at home to Sampdoria, one day after the leaders had lost at Roma.
Since that defeat, Juventus have collected 28 points from a possible 30 – denying their rivals even the faintest hopes of a comeback. It has been some time since this year's scudetto race felt like anything other than a formality.
None of which seemed to temper the enthusiasm of those present at Juventus Stadium on Sunday. No sooner had the final whistle gone, than supporters began to unfurl an enormous tricolore bearing the number 31, in the stands. A similar banner was stretched out across the middle of the pitch, while players charged about the field waving smaller renditions of the same.
This was at once a celebration and a gesture of defiance. In the eyes of the Italian Football Federation, Juventus have won only 29 scudetti – since the team was stripped of its 2005 and 2006 titles in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal. Both the club and their supporters, however, have openly rejected that ruling, and will continue to consider this their 31st.
At first Conte led Vittoria out to the centre-circle to join in those celebrations, but within a matter of moments a pitch invasion had begun. The manager, his daughter, and the players made a swift retreat to the changing rooms. Order was eventually restored but only temporarily. As soon as Conte and his team attempted to come back out on to the field, the invasion began anew.
And so, while overeager fans dug up chunks of turf and cut out sections of net from the goals to take home as souvenirs, Juventus's players celebrated inside. Conte was stripped down to his briefs and tossed into an ice bath by his players. "That was just revenge for all the suffering he put us through during the rest of the year," explained Gigi Buffon, before boarding the open top bus that would take him and his team-mates on a celebratory tour of the city.
The goalkeeper, of course, is not really complaining. Buffon has thrived under Conte, benefiting from both improved health and the greater defensive discipline that the manager has helped to instil. Juventus have conceded 40 league goals over the past two seasons combined. Only two other teams in the division – Milan and Napoli – have given up fewer than 40 goals in this campaign alone.
Nor can Juventus be accused of excessive caution. Only one team, Roma, have scored more league goals (69) than Juventus (67) this season, and even that statistic ought to carry an asterisk. The Giallorossi were awarded a 3-0 victory over Cagliari last September after their fixture was cancelled at short notice due to problems surrounding the Sardinian club's stadium.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Juventus's offensive output is that they have managed to achieve it without the presence of a single great goalscorer. On Sunday Arturo Vidal became the first player in the squad to reach 10 league goals this season, converting from the penalty spot midway through the second half after Massimo Donati was harshly adjudged to have shoved Mirko Vucinic.
Vidal was the consensus pick in Monday's papers as the Juventus player of the season, but many others deserve praise. Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci have excelled to the point that the club was able to take Giorgio Chiellini's prolonged absences in its stride. Andrea Pirlo still runs the show in midfield more often than not, but Paul Pogba, who showed his less impressive side on Sunday when he received a red card for spitting at Salvatore Aronica, has also been a revelation.
The real star for Juve was, of course, Conte himself – who once again showed himself adept at coaxing the best from this group of players. Now it is up to Juventus to convince the manager that they can go even further. Persistent reports of interest in the manager from clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid have unnerved Juve supporters. Conte's noncommittal remarks about his future in recent weeks have only raised anxieties further.
In an ideal world, Conte would love to stay put. Juventus are the team where he spent most of his playing career, the team which he captained, the team he adores. "My objective is to aim as high as possible, and winning the Champions League is the highest point of all," he said on Sunday. "I would like to do that with Juventus."
Conte, though, believes that his squad would require significant strengthening before such goals could become possible. It is for that reason that he intends to meet with the club's directors in the coming weeks, in order to get a clearer sense of the club's financial realities and potential targets.
The suspicion is that Conte will be back next year one way or another, and that this would be too soon for him to walk away from a team to which he has such a strong personal connection. But in the long-term he will need to know that the club's project remains as ambitious as he is. Because if there is one thing that Conte loves more than Juventus, it is winning.
• At around this time last year, Alessandro Del Piero found himself taking centre stage in Juve's Scudetto celebrations. Now, for the first time in two decades, he finds himself on the outside looking in. He reflected on that experience in a post on his personal website:
"For those who play football, or at least for me, it is fantastic to see fans celebrating, to hear them rejoicing, to make them explode with excitement. That is why when the film from my mind was made real, when Juventus won the Scudetto again (what a wonderful verb, 'to win again'), my thought went immediately to those fans who were celebrating. This time I am there with you.
"I applaud my team-mates, a fantastic team, which will I will never stop carrying in my heart. I applaud those who dedicated this same triumph to me last year, now I would like to return the gesture: to repeat as champions was a truly great achievement. I applaud the work done by the club, the technical staff and everyone who works in the shadows. Whoever knows Juventus, knows that after you have won, you have to win again. And again and again."
• Milan took a big stride towards next season's Champions League, beating Torino 1-0 on Sunday to establish a four-point lead over fourth-placed Fiorentina, who lost to Roma by the same margin the day before. Mario Balotelli scored the only goal for Milan – his ninth in 10 games for the club – and promptly offered some words of support for Massimiliano Allegri. "I will do everything I can to make sure he stays at Milan," said Balotelli of his manager.
• If Edinson Cavani is indeed to move on this summer, then he will be able to do so with yet another record under his belt. After scoring all three of Napoli's goals in their 3-1 win over Inter Sunday night, he is, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, the first player ever to score hat-tricks against all three of the Nerazzurri, Milan and Juventus. He also took his personal tally for Napoli to 101 goals in not quite three seasons with the club. Frankly, it's a little ridiculous.
• When it comes to goals, however, even Cavani was outshone this weekend by Miroslav Klose. The Lazio striker hit five in his team's 6-0 rout of Bologna, placing him just one shy of the all-time record for most goals scored by an individual player in a Serie A game. Silvio Piola scored six while playing Pro Vercelli in 1933, and Omar Sivori matched that number with Juventus in 1961. Klose might well have become the first player to achieve the feat since that date, had Vladimir Petkovic – unaware of the record – not substituted him with 24 minutes left to play.
• Only two goals for Antonio Di Natale this weekend, but that was enough to put him over 20 for the fourth season running. It was also enough to help his team to a fifth consecutive win, as they kept up the chase for a Europa League berth.
• At the other end of the table, Pescara were relegated after a 4-1 defeat to Genoa. It is a result that may ultimately condemn both Siena and Palermo to the same fate. The former are now five points from safety and still have Fiorentina, Napoli and Milan left to play. Palermo are only three points behind Genoa, and do hold the tie-breaker should the two teams finish level, but won't have it easy against Udinese, Fiorentina and Parma.
Results Catania 3-0 Siena, Chievo 0-0 Cagliari, Fiorentina 0-1 Roma, Genoa 4-1 Pescara, Juventus 1-0 Palermo, Lazio 6-0 Bologna, Milan 1-0 Torino, Napoli 3-1 Inter, Parma 2-0 Atalanta, Udinese 3-1 Sampdoria