Former Italian international and AC Milan midfield bulldog Gennaro Gattuso is now part of a three-year match-fixing probe involving about 30 matches. Four other suspects were arrested by police early on Tuesday.
AC Milan mainstay Gennaro Gattuso and former Inter Milan midfielder Cristian Brocchi were placed under investigation as part of the "Last Bet" inquiry into match fixing stretching back as far as 2009, justice officials said on Tuesday.
Gattuso, a World Cup winner with 73 Italy caps and 335 appearances for Milan, won his last Serie A title with Milan in the 2010/11 season - one of the campaigns reportedly under investigation. The combative defensive midfielder did not immediately comment on the news, but his agent described it on Italian television stations as "a bolt from the blue."
"Rino was out and now has come back home," Andrea d'Amico said, using the Gattuso's common nickname. "We need to wait to understand more. His lawyers are in contact with the prosecutor."
Gattuso later told TV station Sportmediaset that he was "angry and offended" by the news.
"I am calm and will explain everything. I do not want to have stains on my career. I never bet in my life," the 35-year-old said.
Retired Inter Milan midfielder Cristian Brocchi was also named as a suspect by Cremona chief prosecutor Roberto Di Martino. He told a news conference that investigators had identified telephone and SMS text message contacts linking go betweens with a number of players and club officials ahead of matches.
"Gattuso and Brocchi were connected to the case by phone taps," Di Martino said.
Police also announced four arrests connected to the case on Tuesday. Salvatore Spadaro, Francesco Bazzani, Cosimo Rinci and Fabio Quadri are believed to have help bring players into contact with fixers seeking to throw professional games. Prosecutor di Martino said two of those arrested had met earlier this year, suggesting matches might continue to be fixed.
"We're seeing clear facts that despite the arrests and investigations, a good part of these people continue to do what they did before," Di Martino said, lamenting an apparently limited effect of previous cases in Italy.
The three-year Last Bet investigation has brought about roughly 50 arrests, prompted in 2010 by suspicion that a match involving Cremona had been fixed. Around 100 people were placed under investigation like Gattuso and Brocchi on Tuesday.
Prosecutors say they can identify suspicious bets in both top-flight Serie A and second-tier Serie B matches, worth hundreds of thousands of euros in some cases.
Former Lazio captain and Italy striker Guiseppe Signori is perhaps the most prominent victim of the probe to date, banned for five years in August 2011.
Gattuso was dismissed as head coach of Serie B outfit Palermo early this season, after just six games at the helm.
Italy is no stranger to fixers in football; in 2006, Juventus were stripped of the 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles and relegated as a part of the "Calciopoli" scandal involving agreements with match referees.
Match-fixing investigators around the world received a shot in the arm in September this year, when 14 people were arrested in Singapore, including the alleged mastermind of what prosecutors believe to be a global network, Dan Tan.
msh/ph (AP, dpa, Reuters)