LONDON — Antonio Conte has laughed off bookmaker speculation that he could be sacked by Chelsea and said he enjoys a good relationship with the club’s hierarchy.
A move by several leading bookmakers on Thursday to suspend betting on Conte losing his job raised the possibility that the Italian could be leaving Stamford Bridge, just three months after being appointed by owner Roman Abramovich to revive the club’s fortunes.
Chelsea were quick to dismiss the claims, with a club source telling ESPN FC that any suggestion of Conte losing his job was “utter nonsense,” and the Italian addressed the story in a scheduled media conference at Cobham on Friday.
“I’m trying to find who put the money on,” a laughing Conte said. “It’s very difficult, this. Very difficult to talk about this situation because I’m focused on my work, on improving the team. I have good communication and a good relationship with the club. It is nothing, nothing… I take this with a smile.”
Speculation over Conte’s future briefly flared prior to the international break, with Abramovich a regular visitor to Cobham in the week after damaging defeats to top-four rivals Liverpool and Arsenal to observe training and discuss the team’s issues with his head coach.
But club sources told ESPN FC that the Russian’s presence was intended to support rather than supervise Conte, and Chelsea responded by beating Hull City 2-0 at the KCOM Stadium at the beginning of the month to record their second clean sheet of the season with a shift to a 3-4-3 system.
The international break saw the first Premier League managerial casualty of the season as Francesco Guidolin was replaced by Bob Bradley, and Conte says he was under no illusions about the pressures of managing in England when he accepted the Chelsea job.
“The pressure is the same here [as in Italy],” Conte added. “It’s normal. It’s normal to live with the pressure. The players do, too. When you are at a club, you want to win. You want to do good work. The pressure is a part of our job. It’s normal. I think it’s the same as in other countries.”