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Did Zenit St Petersburg bribe their way to silverware?



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Russian mafia bosses bribed Zenit St Petersburg’s UEFA Cup opponents last season to ensure they won the competition, according to a Spanish judge. Baltasar Garzon claims to have uncovered evidence that Bayern Munich were paid to throw their semi-final against the Russian side.

The Spanish press have today reported that Bayern received vast amounts to lose the home-leg of the semi-final, which they did in style with a 0-4 defeat. The result meant Zenit progressed 1-5 on aggregate. There is no word yet on whether they had to pay for the privilege of playing Rangers in the final!

A statement on Zenit’s website said: “The quality of play shown by FC Zenit in the games against Rangers FC and Bayern Munich is the best proof that the victories were earned by Zenit in honest and non-compromising challenges.

“Allegations of deals mentioned in the media are offensive to all parties mentioned. At this moment FC Zenit’s legal department are evaluating the origins of the story. After this, a decision about legal means to protect the club’s reputation and sport as a whole, shall be decided.”

The positives that Zenit can take out of the allegations is that – at this stage – there is no suggestion that they had to bribe Euro-flops Rangers to lose in Manchester. Now that would be embarrassing.

UEFA is apparently very concerned about the reports and has launched an investigation. Spokesman William Gaillard (he always gets rolled out when there is a bit of controversy, doesn’t he?) said: “When there are rumours of this type, our members of the disciplinary committee handle them and we are going to look at this closely.”

The only football match I have ever thrown involved launching the Subbuteo pitch around the room in a tantrum after a defeat, but if I was involved in high-level corruption I think I would insist on the team in question losing by a goal or two and not an unexpected 0-4 defeat. It does not require too much common sense to work out that a narrow defeat would have been a bit less conspicuous, and I would imagine even the stupidest of Russian mafia bosses has this level of common sense. This does leave some question marks over the allegations.

Have the Spanish press found some way of proving that it was actually Getafe who won last season’s UEFA Cup? I guess we will have to wait for Gaillard and co. to ascertain exactly what the facts are, but I am sure UEFA would hope not to find anything.