Chelsea surprised by Antonio Conte departure talk
Published 13/10/2016 | 11:11
Antonio Conte still has the full backing 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.
A sustained and heavy mid-afternoon gamble was reported on the former Italy and Juventus boss becoming the next Premier League manager to be ousted from his position. 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.
At the same time, Conte's future was a hot topic of discussion on social media, newspaper websites and television.
Yet Chelsea were surprised by the talk, and Press Association Sport understands they remain committed to a future for the team under Conte.
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 will give a routine pre-match press conference at 1pm on Friday.
The tough fixtures will keep coming and Chelsea must face Manchester United, now managed by another former Blues boss in Jose Mourinho, on Sunday, October 23.
Chelsea won their last game, shaking off a slow start to beat Hull 2-0 at the KCOM Stadium on October 1. Willian scored the 61st-minute opener against the Tigers but is expected to miss the match against Leicester for compassionate reasons following the death of his mother.
Captain John Terry may be involved this weekend after a spell on the sidelines with an ankle injury and may one day follow his playing career with a stint as Blues manager.
On Thursday he gave a glimpse of the work he is putting in to achieve his coaching ambitions.
In a posting on Instagram, the Blues skipper showed a table covered in paperwork, an annotated notebook detailing training exercises and tactics, a folder and a Football Association manual.
Terry has been gaining coaching experience in his spare time and wrote alongside the photograph: "Doing some homework for my coaching badges, and running through all the sessions I have written down over the years."