LUCA BIANCHIN / AIPS in MILAN: Italian World Cup-winner Gennaro Gattuso has insisted that he is innocent of any suspicion of matchfixing despite having been questioned over an alleged involvement.
The one-time Rangers and Milan midfielder said: “I’m angry and offended. I have never gambled in my life. If something were to be proven I would be willing to go out into the street and – I know this is a strong thing to say – I would kill myself.”
Gattuso has been placed under investigation by the Cremona prosecutor’s office on suspicion of “associating with criminals with intent to commit sporting fraud.”
Suspicion hjd fallen Gattuso, among others, after four people were arrested on Monday and accused of being involved in a betting ring that fixed 30 Italian games between 2009 and 2013.
Investigators believe Gattuso and Cristian Brocchi, a former team-mate and room-mate and now a youth coach at Milan, both had telephone contacts with Francesco ‘Civ’ Bazzani, one of the four under arrest.
Gattuso claims he received 13 text messages but never responded to any of tehm and never had a phone conversation with Bazzani who has also been linked to Salvatore Pipieri, Gattuso’s friend and adviser.
Cremona prosecutor Roberto Di Martino, an investigation leader, said: “Gattuso and Brocchi were connected to the case by the use of phone taps.”
Media and the football establishment have rushed to Gattuso’s defence.
“Gattuso non c’entra [Gattuso has nothing to do with it]” was the front page headline of Thursday’s Corriere dello Sport.
Adriano Galliani, Milan vice-president and ceo, said: “I cannot comment on things I do not know but I am sure about ‘Rino’ and Cristian’s honesty.” Galliani’s words were echoed by Giancarlo Abete, president of the Italian football federation [FIGC[. Abete said: “I am confident that Gattuso will clear himself of all suspicion.”
Gattuso made his top-level coaching debut this season but lasted only six weeks at Palermo before being sacked by Maurizio Zamparini, the Siciian club’s notoriously inmpatient president.
Zamparini is a realist about the murky underworld in Calcio but has no doubt about Gattuso’ credibility.
He said: “The last ten games in any Serie B campaign are terrifying. Too many interests coexist. I do not have proof but I think these matches are fixed.
“[However] I could give Rino my wallet, I know he is a serious person.”
Bazzani and the other three men taken into custody (Salvatore Spadaro, Fabio Quadri and Cosimo Rinci) are charged with sporting fraud as part of Operation Last Bet.
This is an investigation launched in 2010 and which has led already to 54 arrests, including those of former international Giuseppe Signori and other current and former Italian players.
According to Thursday’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian police seized a diary owned by a Chinese man under investigation, Qiu Wangyi.
The diary is expected to contain the names of many players and executives who have bet on fixed games.