Gennaro Gattuso has reacted to initial reports of his involvement in a match-fixing ring by insisting that, if found guilty of the crime, he'll commit suicide "in the town square."
So adamant is the ex-Italian international of never throwing a match that he goes on to say his life "would be meaningless" if he were convicted of the crime, adding he can't even play five-a-side football with his friends due to a disdain of losing.
I am prepared to go into the town square and kill myself in front of everyone if I should be found guilty of such a crime.
After all, my life would be meaningless from that point on. I would not have the courage to look anyone in the eye. I say that from the heart. In my life, I have never sat down with anyone to fix games, nor have I ever thought to, as I wouldn’t even know where to start.
I don’t even play five-a-side football with my friends because I can’t stand losing. This matter is absurd and unbelievable. I don’t know what they want from me. I don’t know what match-fixing is. I am angry and offended. I do not want to have this stain on my career and my character.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that Gattuso's house had been raided as part of an Italian match-fixing probe called Operation Last Bet, led by prosecutor Roberto Di Martino.
Per Greechan's report, Gattuso wasn't alone in the hunt, however, as the hot-tempered manager's former Milan teammate Cristian Brocchi was also alleged as having been contacted by a go-between—someone who acts as middle man between match fixers and the players.
The article reports that among four men arrested in Italy on Dec. 17 was Francesco Bazzani, whom Di Martino claims had sent 13 texts to Gattuso's mobile phone and an undetermined number to Brocchi, too.
CNN's Tancredi Palmeri ponders the two sides of Gattuso's claims:
Listening to Gattuso's interview, or he is an Academy Award winner, or he is dying inside for how much innocent he is— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) December 17, 2013
Gattuso's most recent statement is reminiscent of the dramatic persona one would often see at the San Siro during his 13 years as a Milan player.
Greechan further quotes Gattuso saying:
Match-fixing is just not part of who I am. I made some bets when it was still allowed, but as soon as it was barred for professionals, I stopped. No problem.
I had also been dragged into this affair two years ago. I am convinced and fully aware of my innocence. I spent my entire career working hard. I have a foundation that allowed me to give away £1.25million to help children and then people suggest I fixed games to earn more? It just doesn’t make sense.
Of course, the 35-year-old's claim of suicide is a compelling one. Gattuso knows the media world too well to expect his comments to be forgotten if found guilty.
The Last Bet probe is reported to be looking into matches that occurred near the end of the 2010/11 Serie A season, Milan's first Scudetto for seven years at the time, not to mention their most recent.
Al Jazeera's Matteo Bonetti confirms the specifics:
Gattuso questioned over his phone calls with Bazzani dating back to a Milan v Chievo match in 2011.— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) December 17, 2013
Regardless of whether he's found guilty, suffice it to say nobody will want to see Gattuso go to the extremes that he has threatened.
As a footballer, his trademark was that he always gave 100 percent on the pitch. Until proved otherwise, that is how his reputation should remain.