LEEDS United owner Gulf Finance House last night moved to deny involvement with an Italian agent caught up in a match-fixing scandal nine years ago after links emerged between Massimo Cellino and Pino Pagliara.
It was reported that Manchester-based Pagliara – banned from football for five years by Italy’s FA in 2005 – has been working with Cellino and attending Elland Road during Cellino’s protracted takeover of Leeds.
Pagliara, who once represented Fabrizio Ravanelli but is no longer listed as a registered agent with either the Football Association or FIFA, is understood to have been part of the team put together by Cellino after the Cagliari owner made his bid to buy control of United towards the end of January.
Two sources confirmed that Pagliara has been seen at Elland Road during the past two months, but Gulf Finance House – the Bahraini investment bank which is selling Leeds to Cellino in a £25m deal – distanced itself and the club from the agent after being asked for comment.
A spokesman for GFH said: “Neither the club nor the owners have any contractual arrangements with Pino Pagliara, nor are we doing any business with him.”
Almost nine years ago, Pagliara was hit with a long suspension by the Italian footballing authorities after being implicated in a controversy involving Genoa and Venezia.
A disciplinary commission found that Genoa paid Venezia more than £150,000 to lose the final game of the 2004-05 Serie B season as Genoa competed for the divisional title.
Pagliara, Venezia’s general manager at the time, was drawn into the scandal after Italian police found a bag of cash in his car a few days after the game.
A subsequent investigation dismissed Pagliara’s claims that the money was a down-payment for the proposed transfer of Venezia defender Ruben Maldonado to Genoa.
Genoa needed a win from their last fixture of the term to guarantee promotion to Serie A and they secured a 3-2 win against a side already relegated.
The commission punished Genoa by relegating the club to Serie C and imposed five-year bans on officials from both clubs, Pagliara included.
Cellino was unavailable for comment about the extent of Pagliara’s involvement at Elland Road last night with the Italian waiting to see if the Football League will approve his takeover in the wake of his conviction for tax evasion on Tuesday.
The Cagliari owner received a fine of more than £500,000 and saw a private yacht confiscated after an Italian court ruled that he had failed to pay more than £300,000 in tax due on the boat in 2010.
The conviction could see Cellino fail the Football League’s Owners and Directors Test and wreck a takeover which has been pending since he and GFH exchanged contracts on the sale of a 75 per cent stake in Leeds on February 7.
A quick decision is expected after the League said last Thursday that it expected to be in a position to formally approve or reject Cellino’s takeover within 10 days.