CREMONA (Italy) • Antonio Conte, who will take over as Chelsea's manager at the end of Italy's involvement at Euro 2016, has been acquitted of allegedly doing nothing to stop a match-fixing scandal when in charge of Siena in 2011.
Italian judge Pierpaolo Beluzzi said yesterday that Conte was acquitted because the accusations of sporting fraud were baseless.
Conte, who has already served a ban imposed by the Italian football federation in connection with the case, has always denied any wrongdoing.
The 46-year-old was already free to take over at Stamford Bridge after it was revealed last month that the prosecutor in the case would be seeking a suspended six-month jail sentence and a fine.
"It was a full acquittal... What matters is that for him, this story is over," said Francesco Arata, one of Conte's lawyers.
"We talked to Conte on the phone and he was very happy."
The inquiry followed alleged attempts to manipulate matches in Serie B and the third-tier Lega Pro during the 2010-11 season, with some Coppa Italia matches also involved.
Italian football federation president, Carlo Tavecchio, welcomed the decision, saying: "I am highly satisfied with the court's acquittal of Antonio Conte. Finally his position has been clarified and my confidence in him has never been in question. Now we are all the more focused on the Euros."
On Sunday, Guus Hiddink expressed satisfaction about having steered Chelsea away from the genuine threat of relegation.
But, following the 1-1 draw with Leicester City, the interim manager warned that it would not be easy for Conte to lift the side next season and a return to their natural top-four habitat is not guaranteed.
"It won't be easy," Hiddink said.
"We've seen Leicester, Tottenham, but also West Ham. They were playing very well.
"Others are knocking on the door. With more financial backing and maybe smart recruiting I don't think it's a done deal that the four established clubs from the past are the four established clubs for the future."
REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON