A bizarre prank started by Italian satirical programme Le Iene with Man United boss Jose Mourinho ended yesterday with Chelsea’s Antonio Conte.
The Red Devils trainer was heading to his residence at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester in January when he was ambushed by a hotel crew. Stefano Corti and Alessandro Onnis, two presenters from the programme, coerced the Portuguese into signing a replica Man Utd shirt. It was only after he had obliged that they revealed its print, which said “ANTONIO CONTE, 1′. Mourinho was able to see the funny side of it all, and burst out laughing as he quickly disappeared into the Lowry.
The full extent of the prank by the cheeky Italians has now been revealed. That same shirt was presented to Conte on Wednesday as the Chelsea boss was previewing his side’s FA Cup clash with Hull City.
Conte, it should be remembered, has traded barbs with Mourinho in the media over the last couple of weeks. That’s why when Corti presented the shirt to Conte, it prompted a properly awkward exchange between the two.
Conte fails to see the funny side
First, the zealous prankster held up a tablet to Conte on which a video with the following message played:
“Antonio, we sent you a messenger. A present for you from your brand new friend, Jose Mourinho! He told us he loves you. Look at what he has written on the present he sent out for you: ‘Your friend, Jose.’
“Can you promise us that next time you play against him you will share a sign of peace? Come on, Antonio… you will be friends forever!”
Then, the following conversation ensued:
“Will you share a sign of peace with Jose? What do you say, mister?”
“This is a present from Jose, it says, ‘To my friend Antonio’. Long live friendship!”
*Unimpressed Conte looks away.*
“Shall I leave the shirt with you?”
“No, you can take it with you. Keep it, you will give it to me later.”
The idea, only apparent in hindsight, was to get the warring former and current Chelsea managers to make peace. It ended up a farcical failure, however, because not only was Conte clearly unamused, but also the prankster was told to quickly wrap up his show to allow the presser to continue with its regular format. That was before being ushered from Cobham.