Former Rangers star Rino Gattuso put his life on the line against accusations of match fixing by declaring that he would kill himself in the street if found guilty.
Italian prosecutors named the World Cup-winning midfielder as part of a wide-ranging investigation on Tuesday, providing evidence that the ex-AC Milan star had been contacted by a go-between working on behalf of a match-rigging gang.
But the combative Gattuso came out fighting, declaring: ‘I am prepared to go into the town square and kill myself in front of everyone if I should be found guilty of such a crime.
‘After all, my life would be meaningless from that point on. I would not have the courage to look anyone in the eye. I say that from the heart.
‘In my life, I have never sat down with anyone to fix games, nor have I ever thought to, as I wouldn’t even know where to start.
‘I don’t even play five-a-side football with my friends because I can’t stand losing. This matter is absurd and unbelievable. I don’t know what they want from me. I don’t know what match-fixing is.
‘I am angry and offended. I do not want to have this stain on my career and my character.’
The two-time Champions League winner, who held talks with Rangers boss Ally McCoist and then-chief executive Charles Green about a spectacular return to Ibrox in the summer of 2012, was named in a prosecutor’s report released to the Italian media yesterday.
His home was raided as part of a widespread swoop by Operation Last Bet, including the arrest of four men — among them Francesco Bazzani. The report issued yesterday shows 13 texts from Bazzani to Gattuso, as well as a number to former Lazio player Cristian Brocchi.
Prosecutor Roberto di Martino said: ‘Gattuso and Brocchi were connected to the case by the use of phone taps. We’ve made four arrests and 16 searches. Some of these searches have produced a positive outcome. We found notes and notebooks whose contents were based on betting.’
But Gattuso hit back, declaring: ‘The phone records show Bazzani sent me 13 text messages. They will, therefore, also show I never replied to any of them.
This man knows half of Serie A, he came to the Milanello gates like many hundreds of others.
He was a bookmaker in Bologna, but I never talked about fixing games.
‘Match-fixing is just not part of who I am. I made some bets when it was still allowed, but as soon as it was barred for professionals, I stopped. No problem.
‘I am accused not of placing bets, but of fixing games, and I can’t understand how they can do that.
‘I was in Naples, so only found out about the raid from my wife, after police took me in to sign some papers. I hope the magistrate calls me in soon because I want to clarify my position.
‘I had also been dragged into this affair two years ago. I am convinced and fully aware of my innocence. I spent my entire career working hard. I have a foundation that allowed me to give away £1.25million to help children and then people suggest I fixed games to earn more? It just doesn’t make sense.’
Gattuso’s home was raided on Tuesday on the strength of phone calls and text messages that, according to the report of the investigating judge, cast some suspicion on the Italian international.
Excerpts from the report make special mention of calls and messages — the content of which remains unknown — between Gattuso and Bazzani, referred to as ‘Mr Y’ in an investigation that has so far seen widespread arrests in Italy, Singapore and South America.
The report, which focuses heavily on Milan’s title-winning season of 2010-11, reads: ‘There were contacts on the occasion of the match between Chievo and Milan on February 20, 2011.
‘These indicate a further element of particular importance, indicative of relations with the professional football world — contacts with the player of AC Milan, Gennaro Ivan Gattuso …
‘The analysis of telephone contacts of Bazzani, at the mentioned match, has revealed the singular coincidence of a contact (SMS outbound) with a user name to AC Millan footballer Gattuso.’
Cremona-based di Martino, who has worked alongside fellow prosecutors from Bari and Naples, said the latest arrests show that little has moved on since the ‘Calciopoli’ match-rigging scandal of 2006 which resulted in the demotion of champions Juventus to Serie B.
‘I’m not a commentator and I’m not here to pontificate,’ he said.
‘But we are faced with some clear facts that, despite the arrests and investigation, most of these people continue to do what they did before (Calciopoli).
‘There are 30 matches in Serie A in which there are contacts between Bazzani and the players or managers who are linked to the team playing the next day or two days later.
‘There clearly hasn’t been much reaction to what happened before, because things are carrying on just as usual for these people.’
Written by Steve Milne – Have your say below 🙂