The man tipped to be English Premier League club Chelsea’s next coach could have his image “seriously damaged” if he is found guilty of “sporting fraud,” his lawyer concedes, even while insisting on his client’s innocence
Current Italy coach Antonio Conte faces trial for allegedly failing to report the incident involving former Serie B club Siena, which he managed during the 2010-2011 season.
“Antonio Conte’s trial should be finished by mid-May,” lawyer Leonardo Cammarata told CNN, which — if true — would sidestep a public relations mess before Italy kicks off its Euro 2016 campaign.
A May conclusion to the trial would enable Conte to concentrate on Italy’s challenge to win Europe’s biggest international football tournament, which begins on June 10 in France.
“He feels he was dragged into something he has nothing to do with, and for personal and professional reasons he requested a fast-track trial,” Cammarata said.
Earlier this month the 46-year-old Conte announced he will step down as coach of the Italian national team after Euro 2016, revealing he is keen to go back to club management.
Conte’s case is scheduled to open on April 4 in the northern Italian city of Cremona.
Heavily favored to take the Chelsea job when Guus Hiddink leaves at the end of this season, Conte is accused of failing to report the alleged fixing of a 2011 match between Siena and Albinoleffe.
Another accusation, regarding a match against Novara, has been dropped.
“At first Conte was suspected of actively taking part in the match manipulation,” Cammarata said. “Now the prosecutor says he failed to prevent and report the match manipulation.”
Conte, who has always denied any wrongdoing, has already served a four-month suspension imposed by the Italian Football Federation for his alleged role in the Albinoleffe match.
The touchline ban, which was appealed twice (it was reduced from 10 months), was served in 2012 while Conte managed Juventus to the second of their three consecutive Serie A titles under his helm. Conte also won five Serie A titles with Juventus as a player.
Should he be found guilty in the upcoming trial, the Italy coach would likely face a fine, but no sportive sanctions, according to Cammarata, who nonetheless admitted Conte’s image would be seriously damaged.”
According to Italian news agency ANSA, Conte is among over 100 defendants in the “Last-Bet” probe, which started in 2011. Dozens of players were banned for up to five years and several clubs had points deducted over match-manipulation-related offences.
It is only one in a string of scandals to hit Italian football over the past decade, starting with the “Calciopoli” match-fixing affair that shook the country in 2006, just before the Azzurri won the World Cup.