ROME: New Italy coach Antonio Conte brushed aside controversy over his wages, which will be part funded by the national federation’s sponsors, when he was officially presented yesterday.
“Nobody imposes anything on me. My eyes and those of my assistants will be the judge, not sponsors nor newspapers,” he told reporters after succeeding Cesare Prandelli.
Conte, who was appointed last week and takes charge of his first match against Netherlands in a friendly in Bari on September 4, previously led Juventus to three successive Serie A titles in as many seasons.
The media pointed out a possible conflict of interest after the Italian federation (FIGC) said it had reached an agreement with sponsors, including sportswear manufacturers Puma, to help fund Conte’s wages.
“Everyone who knows me knows that this is not a problem,” said the new coach after signing his contract.
“My contract falls within Italian federation parameters. There is a winning mentality and it’s right for the FIGC to reach an agreement with the sponsors.
“Unlike my predecessors I have given up all my image rights,” added Conte. “For me the controversy over this contract is secondary, I want to work and there is a long and tortuous road in front of us. “I will prove myself with facts, not with words, as I have always done.”
FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio said the agreement with the sponsors was a way of getting the federation out of a corner. “This was borne out of sporting necessity and the economic reality. We couldn’t get a leader like Conte at a low cost,” he explained.
“We wanted the best, while bearing in mind the reality of the federation, and we managed to come up with something in three or four days.”
Prandelli quit after his team were knocked out in the group stages of the World Cup.
It was the second time in a row the four-times champions had fallen at the first hurdle.
“I live for victories...and I’m here to bring that mentality,” said Conte, adding that “only real men can get over difficulties.
“I know the challenge I face and I’m not afraid of it,” he said.
“If I had to choose between someone who is a good player and a great man, and someone who is a great player and an ordinary man, I will always choose the first one.