Antonio Conte’s press conference on Thursday was gatecrashed by an Italian comedian who attempted to give the Chelsea boss a Manchester United shirt signed by bitter rival Jose Mourinho.
Conte had already spoken of plans to rotate his team ahead of a demanding schedule in which they next play Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City when the comedian from Italia 1 satire Le Iene rose from his seat.
He spoke to Conte in Italian, showed him a video on a tablet – United manager Mourinho’s name could be heard via the video – and then presented the shirt to him before it was refused and he was asked to leave.
When Conte saw the shirt he stopped smiling. Mourinho had signed it last month, unaware it featured Conte’s name, when approached by comedians from the same programme in Manchester.
Conte and Mourinho have traded poisonous barbs this season, culminating in the pair saying they felt “contempt” for each other last month.
Conte remains without the injured Tiemoue Bakayoko, David Luiz and Ross Barkley for Friday’s visit of Hull in the FA Cup fifth round and said he was preparing to make changes.
In response to Roy Keane, a one-time opponent with United while Conte played for Juventus, labelling his players “unprofessional”, Conte said: “In every moment I have underlined the commitment of the players.
“In this 18 months, we built a great mentality. In every training session I see great commitment and great behaviour. Under this aspect, I’m very happy.”
Friday’s fixture is Hull’s first since their midfielder Ryan Mason, 26, announced his retirement because of the fractured skull suffered in a challenge with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill last year.
“We are very sad for this bad news,” added Conte, 48. “He showed great strength to recover, to try to play again. It’s a pity because to stop your career at such a young age, it’s a pity.”