BUCHAREST: Matchfixing claims are swirling around one of last week’s UEFA Champions League matches writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Romania’s CFR Cluj lost 3-1 at home in Group H last Wednesday to Turkey’s Galatasaray for whom Burak Yılmaz scored all three goals. Victory saw the Turkish champions overtake Cluj, go second in the table and revive their hopes of reaching the knockout stages.

Manchester United lead the group with 12 points and are already ensured of qualification for the knockout stage. Galatasaray and Cluj have four points apiece and Portugal’s Braga three points.

Since last week’s matches Romanian journalist Emanuel Roşu has claimed he received a phone call alleging that €320,00 had been offered to Cluj’s Portuguese captain Cadu (full name Ricardo Manuel Ferreira de Sousa).

Cluj have denied the allegation.

The club have enjoyed a remarkable rise from obscurity since 2002 when local businessman Arpad Paszkany became effective owner and major sponsor of the then second division club through his Ecomax holding company.

Two years later they were promoted, after a stormy campaign which saw Paszkany accuse several referees of corruption. Since then Cluj have won eight trophies – three league titles, three cups and two domestic supercups.

Five years ago Cluj emerged unscathed after allegations concerning the outcome of a decisive domestic league match against Steaua which they had lost 2-1.

Ex-Braga players

Paszkany, asked about the latest allegations, told Romanian media outlets: “It is a huge lie from start to finish. Someone in authority should respond to this sort of talk.” Club president Iuliu Muresan added: “This must have come from someone who is mentally ill.”

Cluj have strong links with Portuguese football. Cadu is one of six Portuguese players in Cluj’s Champions’ League squad. Four of their players were previously with group rivals Braga: Portuguese goalkeeper Mario Felgueiras and defender Diogo Valente as well as Brazilian midfielders Rafael Bastos and Luis Alberto.

In mid-October Cluj hired a Portuguese coach, Paulo Sergio, after the sacking of old Romanian hero Ioan Andone. Paulo Sergio had been manager briefly of Scottish club Heart of Midlothian as well as, previously, Vitoria Guimaraes and Sporting Clube of Lisbon.

Turkish football has been struggling to cope with a string of matchfix scandals over the past three years. Aziz Yildirim, president of Galatasaray’s great Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce was sentenced to a six-year jail term in July for matchfixing. He was later released on bail pending appeal.

UEFA has yet to respond to a request for a reaction.

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