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May 22, 2006

Moggi denies wrongdoing and blames Milan rival

MILAN, May 22 (Reuters) - Luciano Moggi, the former Juventus official at the centre of Italy's soccer scandal, has denied he tried to get favourable referees appointed to his club's games and blamed AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani for his downfall.

In an interview with the QN group of regional newspapers Moggi, who is being investigated by prosecutors in Rome and Naples, said he was merely trying to get a fair deal for Juventus.

'I, like my other colleagues, wanted only to assure myself that referees who were enemies of Juventus did not take the field and that all the matches would be taken charge of by serious professionals, who were good and above all impartial,' said Moggi.

Published telephone intercepts of Moggi's conversations with Football Federation officials responsible for selecting referees have led to a series of investigations into allegations of match-fixing.

But Moggi said that all clubs were involved in lobbying over refereeing appointments.

'I will tell you one thing - for years, every day of the week, the refereeing selectors received calls from the presidents and directors of clubs at all levels, starting from (AC Milan official Leonardo) Meani and (Inter Milan President Giacinto) Facchetti.'

Meani is already under investigation by prosecutors, but Facchetti is not.

'These certainly weren't friendly calls because everyone always has something to complain about,' added Moggi.

'It wasn't me who invented this football, it is the system that has always worked like this,' said the former general manager of Juventus who resigned after his club won the title on the final day of the season.

MILAN JOB OFFER

Moggi was considered the most powerful club official in Italian soccer until the publication of his intercepted telephone conversations led the entire Juventus board to quit.

If found guilty of seeking to unfairly influence the outcome of games, Juventus could be stripped of their title and relegated to the second division, Serie B.

Moggi, whose name has been on the front pages of Italian newspapers since the transcripts were first published, pointed the finger for his downfall at Galliani, who is also president of the Italian Football League.

'All I know is that I have been ambushed and stabbed in the back in a way that I could never have imagined,' he said.

Moggi said that in September 2005 the then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is also the owner of AC Milan, had offered him a job at the club.

'Two weeks after my meeting with Berlusconi the documents from the Turin investigation, with the telephone intercepts featuring myself and other people in the game, arrived at the Football Federation,' said Moggi.

'Evidently Galliani suggested that Berlusconi should be very careful before making certain choices and that maybe it was not the best idea to insist on taking me on given that there were investigations,' said Moggi.

AC Milan and Inter Milan declined to respond to Moggi's comments.

The ex-Juventus official said he wished his case had gone rapidly in front of court rather than being played out in the media.

'They have slaughtered me, it would have been better to be indicted right away rather than be slagged off like this. I curse that day that I met Berlusconi,' he said.