Rome (AFP) - Antonio Conte will earn more than any other Italy coach before him thanks to a deal with kit sponsors Puma, Italian media reported Friday, sparking questions over a possible conflict of interest.
The former Juventus boss was named the new coach of Italy on Thursday on a two-year contract, and will be paid 3.2 million euros (£2.5m, $4.28m) a year -- with over half coming from sportswear giant Puma, the reports said.
Conte can also boost his earnings with bonuses linked to qualifying the team for the Euro 2016 finals as well as improving his team's world ranking, currently 14, to among the top eight.
He is expected to hold a press conference in Rome on Tuesday during which the exact details of his salary will be revealed.
"Conte: the best and the best paid," the country's biggest-selling daily Corriere della Sera said, with editorialist Mario Sconcerti describing the 45-year-old as "by far the best choice".
"His charisma, having won a lot, and recently, will give him a momentum with the players that no other coach has ever had," he said.
Conte steered Juventus to a third consecutive title last season, the first time the club had achieved the feat since a five-season title run in the 1930s.
But Puma's role in securing Conte for the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) -- the first time any such deal has been made in Italy -- has left many critics fearing the sponsor will wield too much power.
- 'Questions of ethics' -
"How will Conte deal with the players who have contracts with the same sponsor who is paying his salary? Who will have the final say when it comes to renewing a contract?" Maurizio Crosetti in La Repubblica asked.
"Will it be the banana man who will decide? Or Puma's managing director?" he said in a reference to FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio, who was elected last week despite describing African players as "banana eaters".
Stefano Semeraro in La Stampa warned that "sport has always been tied up with questions of ethics... but this summer Italian football has had to deal with the interference, real or feared, of commercial interests."
The concern, he said, is that a coach paid by a sponsor "could favour a colleague of the same brand ahead of an athlete sponsored by someone else."
But Tavecchio played down the concerns in an interview with radio 24 on Friday, saying "Puma will not decide the line-up, let's not talk gibberish.
"Conte is absolutely independent, he will pick who he wants and will come under no pressure," he said.
"We needed a powerful coach and we got one, that's it."
Conte takes over from Cesare Prandelli, who stepped down after Italy's first-round exit at the World Cup finals in Brazil.
His first match in charge will be on September 4 when Italy face the Netherlands in a friendly.
Five days later, Italy begin their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in Norway and the pressure will be on for a team whose failure in Brazil was the second successive World Cup at which they had failed to get out of the group stage.
With a contract running until July 31, 2016, Conte has a mission "to relaunch the national team and develop new players from across the federation's training centres", said a statement released by FIGC.