Italian football under the microscope: Last days for Italy's Godfather of football

In the first of a two-part series on Italian football, Frank Dunne reports on the bugging scandal which seems certain to bring down Luciano Moggi, the key figure in a decade of success at Juventus
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The publication in Italian newspapers last week of taped phone calls involving the Juventus director general, Luciano Moggi, has shaken Italian football to its foundations. The conversations appeared to lift the lid on a world of favours and behind-the-scenes deals between Moggi, Pierluigi Pairetto, head of the Italian referees' association and a member of Uefa's referees' commission, and Innocenzo Mazzini, the vice-president of the Italian Football Federation.

The wire taps, which had been ordered by Turin magistrates over a 48-day period in 2004, will add to the conspiracy theories concerning Juve's power over referees and ability to manipulate the transfer market. The magistrates found that there was no basis for bringing criminal charges as a result of the tapped conversations, and many of them consist of vague posturing, but the inferences were all too clear, and the football federation here immediately launched its own investigation, promising swift action and no cover-ups.

In one conversation (see panel) Moggi berates Pairetto for having sent the German referee, Herbert Fandel, to take charge of a Champions' League qualifying game between Juve and the Swedish club Djurgarden. Fandel's offence was to disallow a Juve goal. Moggi tells Pairetto that he is " counting on him" in the return leg. Pairetto is also recorded telling a referee who is about to take charge of a Juve league game that he will need "50 pairs of eyes, to see everything, even that which doesn't happen".

In other recorded conversations, Moggi advises two leading players - Fabio Cannavaro, then with Internazionale, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then with Ajax - on how to force a crisis with their respective clubs to facilitate a move to Juventus. Both players joined the Turin club shortly afterwards (as did Arsenal's Patrick Vieira for £14m last summer, though there has been no suggestion of anything improper in that deal).

Moggi later tells Mazzini of his idea to shift a female colleague of Pairetto's, with whom Pairetto is unhappy, to another job within the federation by attempting to convince the Italy coach, Marcello Lippi, that he needs a "secretary" who is familiar with top European referees. To his credit, Lippi does not fall for the ruse.

Unsavoury as last week's revelations were, they represent only the tip of the iceberg. Moggi's son, Alessandro, runs GEA, the biggest and most influential players agency in Italy. Some regard this as presenting a clear conflict of interests, and in a separate criminal investigation in Rome GEA is suspected of "illegal competition with use of threats and violence". If charged and found guilty, those involved could face prison. In March, when police raided GEA offices, they found an internal memo from the agency's managing director, Franco Zavaglia, in which he advises staff to try to attract new players by "demonstrating what our organisation is about, not by bandying around the name of Luciano Moggi and without threatening anybody, as happened in the past". The agency has over 200 professional players and 24 coaches on its books.

The disclosure last weekend that magistrates in Naples taped a whole series of further conversations, involving some of the most powerful figures in Italian football, for the whole of last season has led to widespread paranoia in the world of calcio.

Some of the sport's senior figures have already paid the price for the scandal and many more will follow in the coming weeks. Franco Carraro, the president of the Italian football federation, resigned on Monday, citing lack of support from key allies for his efforts to investigate the matter. Mazzini, who was swiftly dropped from the official federation party for next month's World Cup, is also expected to resign from the federation or to be removed.

Pairetto was reprimanded last week by Uefa for giving Moggi confidential information about referees for Juve's Champions' League games. He will be replaced next season as the Italian representative on the Uefa referees' commission by Pierluigi Collina. Five referees, including Massimo De Santis, who is due to officiate at the World Cup, have been identified in the Italian media as being suspected of favouring Juventus, but it is unclear whether they are under investigation. De Santis yesterday said that the referees were innocent and were being "massacred" by the press.

A former railway station master from Tuscany, Moggi has been one of the most controversial figures in Italian football for over 20 years, a period in which his ability to discover talent and his guile in the transfer market have given him an unrivalled power base. It has long been suspected by players and supporters of rival clubs that he abused this power to obtain refereeing decisions favourable to Juventus and to pressure players into signing up for his son's agency, but very few people have been prepared to go on record about this. Now that his aura of invincibility has been undermined, enemies are more likely to come forward.

The Juventus board is expected to demand the resignations of Moggi and the club's chief executive, Antonio Giraudo, who was shown to be at least aware of Moggi's lobbying. The vice-president, Roberto Bettega, the third member of the "Triad" which has run the club since 1994, may also be told to go, even though there is no suggestion that he has done anything wrong. The former Juventus striker, whose sons were referred to as "cretins" by Moggi in one conversation with Giraudo, burst into tears at the end of Sunday's 2-1 home win over Palermo.

Moggi's response so far is to say there is a club rule which prevents him from commenting, but Giraudo claims the leaks are a gross invasion of privacy and points out that the initial inquiry found no wrongdoing. Mazzini has declined to comment beyond saying that he has "complete faith in the justice system". Pairetto has told reporters that snatches of phone conversations, taken out of context, gave a false impression and that in his conversations with Moggi all he had done was defend the work of his colleagues.

The Agnelli family, who own Fiat and are major shareholders in the club, are said to be furious about the damage done to the club's image. On Sunday, they distanced themselves from the management trio by pointedly pledging their backing for "the team and the coach", with no mention of Moggi, Giraudo or Bettega.

Despite the Agnellis' public support for the coach, Fabio Capello, who has one year to run on his contract, the coach is thought to have become disenchanted with the environment in Turin since he was insulted by Juve fans following the team's elimination from the Champions' League at the hands of Arsenal. There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that he has already held talks with Inter's president, Massimo Moratti, about a move to the Milan club.

While "Moggi-gate", as it has been dubbed, raises questions about the ethics of some of those involved in top-level football in Italy it also raises questions about civil liberties. Giraudo was angry that he was able to read the contents of his own phone taps in newspapers before being told anything about the investigation by magistrates. Obtaining permission for a wire tap from a local judge appears to be relatively simple for investigating magistrates and the frequency with which the contents of such taps appear verbatim in newspapers, without anyone having been charged, has alarmed many.

Amid the bitter recriminations it has gone almost unnoticed that Juventus will win their 29th scudetto on Sunday if they avoid defeat against Reggina. It would be the seventh league title won under the stewardship of Giraudo, Moggi and Bettega, who together have transformed the team into one of the richest and most economically stable in world football. Their removal from office would send a powerful signal to a game which has become almost pathologically obsessed with winning.

The scandal could turn out to be a watershed in Italian football but such is the cynicism most people believe that a strong showing by Italy in the World Cup will be enough to whet everybody's appetite for another season of Serie A, with Juventus starting once again as favourites. As the author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa once famously wrote, in Italy things have to change so that everything can remain the same.

How the bug bit Moggi: The taped conversations that have put the director general of Juventus at the heart of a footballing furore


Luciano Moggi Director General of Juventus

Pierluigi Pairetto Head of Italian Referees' Association and member of Uefa Referees' Commission


September, 2004


Pierluigi Pairetto: I know that you've forgotten about me but I haven't forgotten about you.

Luciano Moggi: Go on...

PP: I've put a great referee for the game in Amsterdam.

LM: Who?

PP: Meier.

LM: Great!

PP: Anyway, it was just to tell you this. You see, I remember about you even if you...

(Ajax played Juventus on 15 September, the referee was Urs Meier, from Switz-erland. Juventus won 1-0)

(Juventus drew 2-2 at home to Swedish club Djurgarden in a Champions' League qualifier in August 2004. German Referee Herbert Fandel disallowed a goal by Juve's Miccoli.)

LM: But what the f... kind of referee did you send us?

PP: Fandel is one of the best...

LM: Miccoli's goal was valid.

PP: No it wasn't.

LM: It was valid, it was valid.

PP: He was in front...

LM: What are you talking about in front? And anyway, all through the game he messed things up for us.

PP: But he's one of the top...

LM: He can go and f... himself. And for Stockholm [the return leg] I'm counting on you.

(Juve won the return leg 4-1, with England's Graham Poll refereeing. Two days before the game, Moggi called the secretary of the Italian football league.)

LM: The ref is Cardozo, right?

Sec: I've got Graham Poll written here.

LM: Uhm. Where's he from?

Sec: He's English.

(A few minutes later, Moggi calls Pairetto.)

LM: So it's Cardozo, eh?

PP: Eh?

LM: It's Paul Green [Moggi means Graham Poll]

PP: What?

LM: Paul Green

PP: Well something has happened at the last minute, he was sick or something.

LM: Find out.

PP: Yes, yes. I'll look into it right away.

(Before a series of pre-season friendly games.)

LM: For Messina, send me Consolo and Battaglia.

PP: I've already done the refs.

LM: And who are you sending us?

PP: Consolo and Battaglia, I think.

LM: And for the Berlusconi trophy, I want Pieri, all right?

PP: I haven't done that yet.

LM: OK, we'll do that later.

(A conversation takes place between Pairetto and Paolo Dondarini, the referee he had selected to officiate a Serie A match between Juventus and Sampdoria.)

PP: You know what you have to do. Make sure you see everything. Even that which isn't there.

(Back in 2004, Juventus had been tracking Ajax's Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a possible transfer target. Moggi rang Antonio Giraudo, chief executive at Juventus, to tell him that Ibrahimovic had scored a hat-trick for Ajax.)

LM: What the hell! But I specifically told him to play badly.

Antonio Giraudo: I told him! We had agreed that he would play badly, go see the manager after the game, tell him that he would never play for them again and demand that he be sold to us.