Ti­tle-win­ning Ital­ian inks new deal to stave off Blues exit ru­mors

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

LON­DON — Chelsea man­ager An­to­nio Conte signed a new two-year deal with the Premier League cham­pion on Wed­nes­day as the club moved to quash ru­mors of a rift that was re­port­edly push­ing him close to an exit from Stam­ford Bridge.

The deal was con­firmed as Conte, who guided the Blues to the ti­tle in his first sea­son last term, pre­pares for a pre­sea­son tour of Asia, which will kick off against Ar­se­nal at Bei­jing’s Bird’s Nest Sta­dium on Satur­day.

“I am very happy to have signed a new con­tract with Chelsea,” Conte said in a state­ment on Chelsea’s web­site.

“We worked ex­tremely hard in our first year to achieve some­thing amaz­ing, which I am very proud of. Now we must work even harder to stay at the top.”

No terms of the deal were dis­closed, but English me­dia re­ported the new con­tract im­proves the terms of the re­main­ing two years left on the three-year deal Conte signed when he ar­rived at Stam­ford Bridge last year.

Chelsea di­rec­tor Ma­rina Gra­novskaia said the con­tract re­warded the “in­cred­i­ble suc­cess” Chelsea en­joyed in Conte’s first sea­son.

“This new con­tract re­flects our be­lief that he can con­tinue to de­liver re­sults both do­mes­ti­cally and as we re­turn to Eu­ro­pean com­pe­ti­tion in the Cham­pi­ons League,” Gra­novskaia said.

“Since ar­riv­ing in west Lon­don, the 47-year-old Ital­ian’s pas­sion, tac­ti­cal acu­men and win­ning men­tal­ity have en­deared him to Chelsea sup­port­ers, and we look for­ward to fur­ther tri­umphs with An­to­nio at the helm.”

Conte’s coach­ing staff has been aug­mented by the ar­rival of two more Ital­ians, with Paolo Vanoli join­ing as an as­sis­tant to the first-team head coach and Da­vide Maz­zotta drafted in to spe­cial­ize on player anal­y­sis.

The con­tract boost for Conte comes amid re­ports the Ital­ian has grown frus­trated with Chelsea’s in­abil­ity to re­in­force its ti­tle-win­ning squad.

Chelsea had long been linked with a move for Ever­ton striker Romelu Lukaku, but the Bel­gium in­ter­na­tional opted for Manch­ester United over a re­turn to the Blues.

Re­ported in­ter­est in Ju­ven­tus duo Leonardo Bonucci and Alex San­dro failed to come to fruition, al­though the Blues ac­quired mid­fielder Tiemoue Bakayoko from Mon­cao and de­fender An­to­nio Rudger from Roma.

Chelsea’s top brass, mean­while, were re­port­edly un­happy that Conte told striker Diego Costa he does not fea­ture in his plans — po­ten­tially weak­en­ing the club’s bar­gain­ing po­si­tion in any po­ten­tial ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Costa has been linked with a move to China al­though his pref­er­ence is a re­turn to Atletico Madrid, de­spite the Span­ish club be­ing banned from sign­ing new play­ers un­til the new year.

There ap­pears lit­tle way back for him at Chelsea — in an In­sta­gram Live video on Sun­day, he filmed him­self par­ty­ing in an Atletico shirt and told Chelsea team­mate Cesc Fabre­gas to “give Conte a hug”.

Ham­mer Hart

Mean­while, Eng­land goal­keeper Joe Hart has joined West Ham on a sea­son-long

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