So far, the ongoing match-fixing investigations and hearings in Italy have focused on individuals, rather than clubs. Unlike the 2006 vintage, the scandal(s) unravelling in courtrooms in Cremona and Naples have concentrated more on vulnerable players with debt or gambling problems, ripe for approaches from illegal betting syndicates and criminal gangs.
However, events earlier this week saw both some high-profile names caught up in events and now, with the opening round of hearings at a sporting trial in Rome, the prospect of a number of clubs facing punishment. Genoa, Lazio, Bari, Atalanta, Napoli and plenty of others could be looking at points deductions, with all the attendant knock-on affects for promotion/relegation, European places, etc. It’s going to be a long old summer.
Meanwhile, some of the individuals involved have already been charged (and a few have pretty much ’fessed up). Others are under investigation simply because their names cropped up on a wiretap in passing conversation. As one investigator said with a slightly chilling clarity earlier this week, “We don’t know yet if we’re at the end or at the beginning…”
Here then are just a handful of the main protagonists who have come into play in recent weeks and, getting in the spirit of things, the odds on their likely culpability. Don’t forget to pay your tax, now.
Domenico Criscito – Zenit St Petersburg defender, formerly at Genoa
Italian police were tailing Safet Altic, a Bosnian criminal, in May of last year, hoping to tie up drug-dealing evidence. They followed him to the Osteria del Coccio, a restaurant in Genoa (“good, but expensive” according to one reviewer), where he was spotted dining with two members of a Genoa ultra group and two Genoa players. One was Criscito, the other was Giuseppe Sculli. At 6.20am on Monday morning of this week, police arrived at the Italian training camp at Coverciano, in the Florence suburbs. They went straight to Criscito’s room (shared with Inter player Andrea Ranocchia) and confiscated his computer, tablet and mobile phone. Criscito pulled out of the azzurri European Championship squad shortly afterwards, but told his team mates and then the press that he was innocent and that he turned up at the lunch date believing he was just meeting with the ultras (not an unusual event in Italy, but that’s another story. Or possibly not... ) Continues to be under investigation.
Odds: May yet be guilty of little more than knocking around with a bad crowd. 22/1
Stefano Mauri – Lazio striker (and vice-captain)
Mauri, arrested on Monday morning, was picked up on wiretaps in dialogue with the so-called ‘Hungarian Clan’ of criminals, working in tandem with a betting syndicate based in Singapore. He’s linked with a number of games under investigation, though police are particularly interested in a May 2011 Lazio game at Lecce, when the home side were reputedly offered 600,000 to lose (they did, 4-2). Mauri continues to protest his innocence from his cell.
Odds: I reckon it’s got to be worth a punt. 7/1
Omar Milanetto – Padova midfielder, formerly at Genoa
The same day Altic was spotted having lunch with the two Genoa players, he was also seen at a bar in the city having a drink with Milanetto. The player’s lawyer is confident that no wrong doing has occurred and that there’s no evidence to suggest any exchange of money. However, along with Mauri he’s one of the few high-profile players to have been actually arrested, rather than merely being investigated. Which raises a few doubts.
Odds: Maybe try an accumulator with Mauri. 8/1
Antonio Conte – Juventus coach
Conte has been accused by Filippo Carobbio, one of his former players during his time as coach at Siena, of trying to fix a game against Novara. Carobbio is pretty much up to his neck in it, under investigation for a number of attempted ‘result manipulations’. His claims have yet to be substantiated by three other players who allegedly witnessed Conte’s plans for a fix. If charged and found guilty, Conte faces a three-year suspension, at best. All allegations have been strongly denied.
Odds: Very long odds. 100/1
Cristian Bertani – Sampdoria striker (formerly at Novara)
Claims have been made that Bertani was in possession of a phone card given to him by one of the Hungarians, Hristian Ilievski, which would allow him to avoid police phone taps. Believed to be involved in the fixing of games involving Novara, his former club (including the one against Conte’s Siena).
Odds: Looking a bit of a banker at the moment. Evens
Leonardo Bonucci – Juventus defender
Shortly after the dramas of Criscito at Coverciano, news broke that Bonucci too was being questioned. However, the player isn’t yet being officially investigated and so remains a part of Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri squad. However, at the time of writing said official notification is rumoured to be on its way. Salvatore Masiello, a former team mate of Bonucci at Bari, has alleged the defender is one of four players who knew about attempts to fix a game against Udinese. Masiello famously scored an own goal during a game at local rivals Lecce, in the process ensuring that the home side would survive relegation and stay in Serie A (Bari were already down). He later admitted accepting a payment of €50,000, handed over to him at a service station.
Odds: One to watch. 20/1
Giuseppe Sculli – Genoa midfielder
Related to an imprisoned ’Ndrangheta crime boss in Calabria, Sculli has long had to put up with insinuations and rumours of varying shades of dodginess. However, Sculli's name does tend to crop up with some regularity; so much so that some investigators regard him as being central to a lot of what happened at Genoa and elsewhere. A judge apparently refused requests for his arrest, primarily because the player is the focus of another investigation. That could mean they’ve got an awful lot on him, or it could mean they’ve got nothing at all…
Odds: Still an outside bet, but has a bit of form and odds could rapidly shorten over the coming days. 33/1
Antonio Lo Russo - son of Neapolitan Camorra clan boss
Some of the stuff happening down in Naples has been a whole lot juicier than the labyrinth of accusation and counter-accusation in Cremona. Lo Russo, a fugitive wanted by Italian police, was spotted frowning in cheap sportswear from the edge of the pitch during a number of Napoli games at the San Paolo stadium during the 2009-10 season. Right there, leaning against advertising hoardings, next to the stewards and photographers. The games in question, against Fiorentina, Catania and Parma, are all currently under investigation for irregular betting patterns.
Odds: All bets are off on this one…
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