Sassuolo tactician Roberto De Zerbi has strongly rejected allegations he was pressured by the local Mafia into signing two players for Foggia.
The club was in Lega Pro with De Zerbi from 2014-16 and a statement from the prosecutor of the Bari Tribunal Francesco Agnino claims they signed two players “albeit knowing they had no significant sporting talent.”
The players were Antonio Bruno, son of former clan boss Rodolfo, and Luca Pompilio, who was loaned to Melfi and still plays there.
“Rather than go to the authorities, as all victims of extortion should, they preferred to accept in supine fashion the requests made, destroying those values of fair play that ought to inspire their conduct.”
However, De Zerbi denied all suggestions of impropriety with a statement via his lawyer.
“I never accepted pressure from anyone, not even the directors of the clubs I worked for. At Foggia everyone knew I could not be influenced, nor blackmailed.
“I wish to point out that one of the two players listed never actually trained in my team, while the other was added to the Juniores youth team for the final weeks of the season.
“When it came time to make the cut for the next season, I decided he was not suitable for the first team. I limited my scope to that of a Coach and had no powers over which players the club wanted to sign in order to then loan out to other teams.
“It is disappointing that my good name has been dragged into this just to get a story into the headlines.”