Chelsea dismiss suggestions Antonio Conte could be on way out of club after bookmakers suspended betting
Antonio Conte still has the trust of Chelsea and is staying as their manager despite sudden speculation he was close to losing his job.
Within minutes of Chelsea announcing a kit deal with Nike that is set to net the club £900million over the next 15 years, the focus turned to Italian Conte.
He went from being an outsider in the market to an odds-on favourite with some bookmakers, while others refused to take any more money.
Yet it is understood Chelsea remain committed to a future for the team under Conte and were baffled by the suggestion he could be leaving.
The club owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich recruited Conte on a three-year contract that began in July, following his Italy team’s Euro 2016 quarter-final penalty shoot-out loss to Germany.
Chelsea have experienced a mixed start to Conte’s first season in English football, suffering painful early defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal. With 13 points from seven games, they stand seventh in the table and five points behind leaders Manchester City.
This Saturday sees Chelsea face a fresh test of their credentials when they tackle reigning Premier League champions Leicester at Stamford Bridge in a lunchtime kick-off. Conte is due to give a press conference on Friday lunchtime, at which the unexpected discussion about his future may be mentioned.
Former Blues boss Claudio Ranieri engineered Leicester’s title run last season, but his Foxes side have already been knocked out of the EFL Cup by Conte’s Chelsea this term.
Chelsea won last time out, shaking off a slow start to beat Hull 2-0 at the KCOM Stadium on October 1.
Willian scored the 61st-minute opener in that game but is expected to miss the match against Leicester for compassionate reasons following the death of his mother.
The Brazilian wrote a poem in his native Portuguese in tribute to his mother on Instagram on Thursday after her death, reportedly of cancer.
Chelsea sent their condolences to the 28-year-old and his family.
Chelsea said on their website: “All of us at Chelsea Football Club are sending our love and deepest condolences to Willian and his family after the passing of his mother. We are thinking of you Willian.”
Willian scored in Brazil’s 2-0 win in Venezuela on Tuesday night.