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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 23 September, 2014

Did someone say Irish walkover? Prandelli says he’s ready to pull Italy out of Euros

First there was the match-fixing scandal and now Gigi Buffon is caught up in a betting controversy.

Mario Balotelli, Andrea Barzagli and Christian Maggio with Prandelli front and centre.
Mario Balotelli, Andrea Barzagli and Christian Maggio with Prandelli front and centre.
Image: Pa images

CESERE PRANDELLI SAYS he would have no problem pulling Italy out of the European Championships, which start in a week’s time, if that decision was taken to avoid tarnishing the image of the game.

Italy is being dragged through the mire once again due to a match-fixing scandal, in which first choice left-back Domenico Criscito was caught up leading to Prandelli ditching him from his tournament squad.

Since then a pair of Juventus players have also been implicated with centre-back Leonardo Bonucci being accused by a former team-mate of complicity in match-fixing when at Bari.

And now it is goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who is suspected of illegal betting as reports have emerged that he spent €1.5 million over an eight-month period in a tobacco shop in Parma where you can place bets on football. Neither player was named in the investigation by the Cremona public prosecutor, who issued a search warrant against Criscito and an arrest warrant against Lazio captain Stefano Mauri amongst several others.

But a document has been leaked to the press in which the Turin public prosecutor informs his counterpart in Cremona about Buffon’s expenses.

Buffon allegedly made 14 different payments ranging from €50,000 to €200,000 and totalling €1.585m to Massimo Alfieri, the owner of the tobacco shop.

The document also explains that Buffon’s lawyer refused to answer questions about the reasons for such payments, citing the player’s privacy as justification.

Ireland’s Italian manager Giovanni Trapattoni in squad training today. Pic: Inpho

It has led to rumours that Italy may lose players from the national squad if further leaks or investigations implicate Bonucci and Buffon, or indeed other players, in a more concrete manner.

And if that is the case, Prandelli would have no qualms about his team being removed from Euro 2012, in which they’re in the same group as Ireland, of course.

“If it is decided that for the good of football the national team should not go to the Euros then that wouldn’t be a problem,” he told RaiSport. ”As far as I’m concerned it wouldn’t be a problem, there are more important things.

“I don’t like crusades, I like meetings rather than taking a position without thinking about the repercussions. I would like to only be talking about football but what is happening is forcing me to do otherwise.

“As for the players, I repeat that those who are involved will not go to the Euros. But then if we want to start a crusade let’s do so,” he added sarcastically.

Defence

But Prandelli was quick to defend his players, reminding everyone that they were not among those named in the Cremona public prosecutor’s investigation.

“The Juventus players, until it is otherwise proved, have not been subject to any type of notification of investigation (similar to an arrest warrant).

“(Buffon) is very strong, he has great character and manages to hide uneasy moments. But despite this, difficult moments like this one can still weigh on a person like him, even the strongest can be very sensitive.”

Italy play their one and only warm-up match tonight against Russia in Luxembourg before heading to their Krakow tournament base in Poland on Tuesday.

They will play world champions Spain, Ireland and Croatia in Group C.

© AFP, 2012

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