Fixers of Juventus

Luciano Moggi, the general manager of the Serie `A' winners, has been forced out of the game, guilty of bribing referees, bullying officials, doing his best even to suborn foreign clubs. Moggi is the perfect pupil for the ARCH-FIXER of the 1960s and 1970s, the serpentine Italo Allodi.

I am not usually given to dancing on people's graves but in the case of Juventus I'm inclined to make an exemption. Juve, though they duly tied up the Italian championship on the last day with their victory over Reggina, are not only bang to rights: and they have been there before. They have been caught by the Italian police in flagrant turpitude. Their general manager, Luciano Moggi, benignly nicknamed in the past `The Nice Pinocchio of Italian Football', has been forced out of the game, guilty of bribing referees, bullying officials and doing his best even to suborn foreign clubs. Such as in the case of Ajax of Amsterdam who, he outrageously insisted, should have their Swedish international centre forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic play badly, so as to facilitate his eventual transfer to Juve.

How providential that the whole damning investigation, the horribly revealing tapes, should have come out of another prior investigation which, as so often happened in the story of Juventus, went off at half cock. When some years ago Zdenek Zeman, the Czech who variously managed Roma and Lazio, accused Juve of using drugs on their players, pointing out how stars such as Alex Del Piero and Gianluca Vialli had bulked up, the club denied it furiously. When after a long hiatus the case came to court, their doctor was found guilty and suspended. No punishment was imposed by the ever-compromising football authorities. After another lengthy pause, the suspended doctor and his suspended prison sentence were cancelled on appeal, the verdict being that though what had gone on may have been deplorable it was not, in fact, criminal. Fortunately, the police continued with their investigations and their phase tapping, eventually coming up worth hundred of pages of horrifying transcriptions.

Moggi, the perfect pupil for the arch fixer of the 1960s and 1970s, the serpentine Italo Allodi, had shamelessly bullied and corrupted officials at every level. He had even on one occasion, after a lost Juventus game, locked the referee in his dressing room.

It was with Allodi that I, the American journalist Keith Botsford and the Sunday Times had crossed swords back in 1974 and after. We had been given a "cough" from Budapest about the finagling which had gone on the previous year over Juve's attempt to bribe the upright Portuguese referee, Francisco Marques Lobo, to fix the return European Cup semifinal between Juve and Derby at the Baseball Ground. Lobo had refused and reported this, which led to a fiasco of a UEFA disciplinary sub-committee interrogation in Zurich at which Lobo and the man who had tried to bribe him, Allodi's catspaw, the Hungarian refugee, Deso Solti, were not even confronted with one another.

With the speed of light the palsied UEFA Secretary, Hans Bangerter, sent off a letter of thanks and exoneration to Juventus. When we published these accusations, there was hell to pay in Italy. Scandalous Accusations Against Juventus, read the headlines. Journalists such as Gianni Brera, allegedly the conscience of the Italian game, however, stayed despicably mute. Except to the extent of insulting me in a sports paper he hoped I wouldn't see. Unluckily for him I did and, since he had subsequently smiled at me and shaken hands in Munich during the 1974 World Cup, I wrote to him calling him exactly what he was. There was no way our investigation could be denied or faulted, and indeed the measure of that was that we never got a single writ for libel though the repugnant Allodi fumed and blustered that he would see us in court. Incensed that just before the World Cup of 1974 began, when he had inexplicably been made Italian general manager, I went up to the training quarters of the Azzurri. There, wrote the Corriere della Sera newspaper, I was greeted by the players as though I were Father Christmas, but Allodi did a slalom to avoid me.

The inquest broadened. We well knew that another big Italian club in the shape of Internazionale of Milan had been up to similar dirty tricks in the 1960s. It had been an open secret that they had successfully bribed Tesanic, the Yugoslav referee of the Inter-Borussia Dortmund return semifinal of 1964, and that in 1965 had bought Ortis de Mendibil, referee of the equivalent game against Liverpool. The night tough Tommy Smith of Liverpool by his own admission kicked De Mendibil off the field.

In time, we also discovered that the referee of Inter's third successive return semifinal in 1966 against Real Madrid, the honest Hungarian Gyorgy Vadas, had nobly refused to be bought. Even when offered the treasures of this earth by the rich Inter President, Angelo Moratti. Alas Vadas had never gone public as Lobo subsequently did and though Keith and I went to Budapest he would not open up to us. This, however, he ultimately did to a bright young Hungarian journalist called Peter Borenich who, like Vadas, and almost everyone else in Hungarian football you could think of, worked at Radio Budapest.

The shameless Allodi once claimed that when I fell ill in Florence, he sent me money to stay on there. That was in 1954 and in fact I had to go back to London for operations. I did not meet Allodi till 1973 and he had forgotten even this when he came up to me in a Roman hotel just before the Liverpool-Munchengladbach European final of 1977. None of this stopped him being put in charge of Italy's coaching centre outside Florence. But he was paralysed for his last 12 years. Still, like Inter, never fully brought to justice. Italia, Italia!