MOSCOW: Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko was far more closely involved than previously conceded in setting up Fabio Capello’s lucrative contract as manager of the 2018 World Cup hosts writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

This has emerged from an investigation by the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta into the ongoing controversy over Capello’s €7m-a-year contract – which is labelled as ‘CapelloGate.’

The Italian was contracted initially by the Russian Football Union in July 2012. His contract was then renewed and extended in January 2014 after he had steered Russia to the World Cup finals in Brazil.

Mutko insisted on the renewal, according to Novaya Gazeta, against the wishes of RFU president Nikolai Tolstikh who had wanted to wait and make a judgement after the World Cup.

Russia had a dismal World Cup. They lost to Belgium, drew with South Korea and Algeria, finished third in their group and were eliminated with the finals less than a fortnight old.

Simultaneously it emerged that the RFU was behind on paying the salaries of Capello and his assistants.

Mutko insisted that responsibility for paying Capello lay entirely with the RFU and Tolstikh and that the Ministry of Sport had no role to play in bailing out the football association.

Rome meeting

Novaya Gazeta reported that this was disingenuous, according to Capello’s own recall of how he was approached in the first place.

In July 2012, immediately after arriving in Russia, Capello told a press conference: “Mr Mutko invited me to coach the Russian team when he was in Rome for a congress and soon after that I flew to Moscow.” At that time Tolstikh was not yet president of the RFU.

Novaya Gazeta also published what it claims to be a copy of Capello’s contract extension which had been lodged with the federal department of labour and employment.

The contract was signed not only by Nikolai Tolstikh as the employer but endorsed on page after page by Mutko who is not only Sports Minister but also a member of the executive committees of world and European football governing bodies FIFA and UEFA.

A Sports Ministry spokeswoman said she had no commemt to make in response to questions from Novaya Gazeta about the relationship between Mutko’s Ministry and the RFU.

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