Chelsea deny Antonio Conte sack, but bookies suspend betting
Blues boss is sudden favourite for the chop as his struggling side prepare to face champions Leicester
Chelsea have insisted that Antonio Conte is not about to be sacked despite a flurry of bets on Thursday afternoon.
The Daily Express reports that the Italian "went from being an outsider in the market to an odds-on favourite" to be dismissed with some bookmakers even suspending betting on Conte losing his job.
At the start of the week he was around 25-1 to be the next manager to lose his job, but all that has changed reports website The Sack Race.
"Betway and Paddy Power are both no longer taking bets on the Italian, while he is as short as 6-4 with Bet Victor, and 2-1 with Sky Bet," it says. But it also suggests that the run on Conte "is likely the result of one or two monster bets".
News of the bets has "baffled" the Blues, claims the Express, which says that the 47-year-old Conte "still has Roman Abramovich's trust" three months after his appointment on a three-year deal, while Chelsea sources have told Sky Sports that rumours of Conte's impending departure "are absolute nonsense".
Since taking over from Guus Hiddink - and becoming the tenth manager of Abramovich's 13-year reign - Conte has struggled to re-establish Chelsea as a serious force in the Premier League. The nadir came with a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal last month and they currently lie seventh in the table, 13 points behind leaders Manchester City.
Tomorrow's home clash against Leicester City offers Chelsea the chance to relaunch the season after the two-week international break, but lose and the pressure will only increase on their manager.
Conte will give a press conference this afternoon where it's believed he will be asked about his relationship with Abramovich, which some believe has already hit the rocks.
Another topic of conversation, and a more pleasurable one for Conte, is likely to be the record kit deal with Nike that was announced on Thursday. According to The Guardian the agreement is "worth an estimated £60m a season for the next 15 years".
Chelsea have been in negotiations with the American sportswear giants throughout the summer after the announcment that they were ending their partnership with Adidas six years early. The curtailment cost Chelsea around £40m but that will be offset by the deal with Nike, which will begin next season.
Describing the partnership as “the largest commercial deal in the club's history”, Chelsea said all their teams - including academy and women's - will wear Nike kits until 2032, by which time they will have received £900m from the sportswear company.
The Nike deal will bring in double what the Adidas contract was worth but it's still chickenfeed compared to the £106m that Real Madrid pocket each season from Adidas, notes the Guardian, which adds that Adidas also signed a deal with Manchester United two seasons ago worth a minimum £750m over ten years.