Chelsea’s press conference to preview Friday’s FA Cup fixture with Hull was gatecrashed by an Italian comedian attempting to give Antonio Conte a Manchester United shirt signed by 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 – his bitter rival 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.
It was when Conte saw the shirt that he stopped smiling; the Manchester United manager had last month signed it, unaware it featured Conte’s name, when approached by comedians from the same programme in Manchester.
The Italian concluded the broadcast section of Thursday afternoon’s press conference before the individual was then asked to go by the club’s press officer.
Conte remains without the injured Tiemoue Bakayoko, David Luiz and Ross Barkley for Friday’s visit of Hull, and asked if he was preparing to change his team, he responded: “For sure, we have in front of us two weeks that are very tough.
“For this reason, it’s right to have a programme, to have a plan, to face these two tough weeks in the right way. But, at the same time, we want to try to go through to the next round in the FA Cup.
“Bakayoko is out. Luiz is out. Barkley is out. Then I have a couple of situations that I have to check.
“When you start a season, every competition is a priority. We tried to do the same in the Carabao Cup and reached the semi-final. We want to fight for every competition. There is not one priority. There are three priorities for the rest of this season.”
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 represents 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.
“This news is bad news for us. We are very sad. The players and the club wish him and his family the best for the present, the best for the future.”