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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 7, 2006

Lawyer says Juventus duo deserve praise, not trial

ROME, July 7 (Reuters) - Former top executives of Italian soccer champions Juventus deserve praise for helping Italy reach the World Cup final rather than being put on trial for alleged match-fixing, a defence lawyer said on Friday.

At the end of hearings that have cast a shadow over the success of Italy's national team, Paolo Trofino said the case should be suspended, arguing that intercepted telephone calls on which it rests represented only a fraction of calls made by recently resigned Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi.

'The calls on which the investigation was based are approximately 40. We don't know what was in the rest...I'm asking you to suspend proceedings until we know what is in the other 99,960,' Trofino said.

He stressed the role that Moggi and ex-chief executive Antonio Giraudo played in turning the Turin club into the backbone of the current Italian national side.

'On Sunday night, when Italy play France in the World Cup final, you will see on your television screens that more than a third of the players on the pitch were employed by Moggi and Giraudo,' the lawyer said.

'You will see (Italian national coach Marcello) Lippi, who coached Juventus.'

As well as Juventus, top Italian soccer clubs AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio have been accused of sporting fraud by a sports prosecutor. The clubs deny the charge.

In one of Italy's biggest sporting scandals, Juventus risk relegation to Italy's third division and the others could go down to the second division. The prosecutor also wants all four teams to be docked points next season.

A lawyer for Juventus said on Wednesday the club might agree to relegation to Italy's second division, if found guilty.

The tribunal, which met in Rome's Olympic Stadium, ended its hearings on Friday and could deliver its verdict as early as Monday, the day after the World Cup final in Berlin. At the latest, its decision will be delivered within 15 days.

Appeals must be wrapped up by July 27, UEFA's deadline for a list of teams to contest next season's European competitions.

AS Roma, another leading Italian side but which is not under investigation, said on Friday it believed a doubling of its share price in the past three weeks was due to expectations that it would now take part in the Champions League next season.

Roma finished fifth last season, just too low to qualify. Juventus, Milan and Fiorentina all qualified.

CRUCIFIED

The scandal broke in May with the publication of excerpts of the calls between Moggi and Italian soccer officials, discussing refereeing appointments.

Moggi has not appeared at the tribunal but he gave a television interview in June saying he had been 'crucified' by the media and found guilty before the start of the trial.

With World Cup fever building in Italy, Justice Minister Clemente Mastella caused a stir by talking of an amnesty as a way not to punish players from the Italian national side.

'The government cannot get involved on this issue,' he said in a newspaper interview.

'But I do think the majority of fans wants an amnesty. As a fan, let me say this: is it fair that Cannavaro and Del Piero and so many others should play in the third division after everything that they have done?'

Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Del Piero are two of several Italy players on the books of Juventus.

Earlier this week, Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri said the proposal was 'idiocy.'

Also on Friday, the head of the tribunal hit back at defence lawyers who protested the hearings are proceeding too quickly.

'Nobody here is smothering the rights of the defence,' Cesare Ruperto said.

The hearings ran for just over a week with no time for witnesses or television footage from matches.