Gennaro Gattuso did "a very good job" at Milan, according to Antonio Conte, who said Napoli would give Inter a stern test.
Antonio Conte believes he shares "the same passion" as Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso as he prepares to take his table-topping Inter side to Stadio San Paolo.
Gattuso took charge of Napoli on December 11, replacing Carlo Ancelotti, and after suffering a 2-1 defeat to Parma he guided the Partenopei to victory at Sassuolo in his second game at the helm.
Conte has backed Gattuso to succeed in Naples and claims the former Milan boss was not given the praise he deserves for his near 18-month spell in charge of Inter's rivals.
"I see he has the same passion as me," Conte told reporters. "He has lots of desire to do well and, like me, he started in the lower leagues.
"I have lots of respect for him. He also coached abroad and had challenges. Not everyone is willing to do that or coach in the lower leagues. Other coaches might have it easier.
"Everything Gattuso has earned is down to his effort. With Milan, people underestimate how well he did as coach. Last season he did a very good job there. He deserves to be in charge of Napoli.
"We are in for a hard game in Naples. They have a lot of quality. Gattuso has come in for Ancelotti and will be very motivated. He is able to get the best out of his teams."
Inter are unbeaten in their last 10 Serie A matches and are top of the table by virtue of having a better goal difference than second-placed Juventus.
The Nerazzurri have been linked with January moves for Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal and Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen, but Conte admitted that it could take the club time to re-establish a reputation that can attract Europe's top players.
"This is part of a journey and It takes time," said Conte. "You cannot change things in a day.
"In recent years a gap has developed between Inter and the other top teams. I do not have a magic wand. We are taking our time and need patience too.
"We have young players who are developing all the time. Through hard work and effort we will improve the situation."