Croatia’s Football Federation (HNS) head Davor Suker strongly denied Tuesday reports linking him to one of Europe’s biggest match-fixing scandals.
“I was never in my life involved in any activity aimed at setting up or influencing the result of a football match,” Suker, also a member of UEFA’s executive committee, said in a statement.
“Both HNS and myself are firmly committed to fight that horrible disease of match fixing.”
Suker’s denial followed German media reports implicating him with Ante Sapina, a German of Croatian origin and the key figure in the 2009 scandal that rocked European football.
According to German broadcaster ARB, German prosecutors from Bochum had evidence — consisting of text messages and intercepted phone conversations — that Suker was in contact with Sapina on several occasions in 2009.
Sapina allegedly advised Suker on how to bet at least once in the Champions League and twice in the European League.
In 2011, Sapina was sentenced to five-and-a-half years by a Bochum court having been the leader of a gang which had bribed players and officials in matches across Europe to influence results which they then bet heavily on.
During a six-month trial, Sapina and members of his gang confessed to influencing around 50 matches across Europe.
On Tuesday, Suker stressed he was “never questioned by any competent body regarding the alleged relation with Sapina” and another betting fraudster.
Recalling that the German prosecutors were probing match-fixing affairs for the past seven years, Suker added that they had never questioned him.
“I never played or acted against my firm fair-play principles and love towards integrity of sports,” concluded the 47-year-old former striker.
Suker is Croatia’s record goalscorer, having scored 45 goals in 69 international appearances.
Suker moved to Real Madrid in the 1996a 97 season, in which he scored 24 goals, making 38 appearances that season and was third-best goal scorer of the league, behind FC Barcelona’s Ronaldo and Real Betis’s Alfonso P rez.
During the same 1996a 97 season, he managed to score three hat-tricks in the La Liga and led Real Madrid to winning the league title. Along with Montenegrin Predrag Mijatovi , who signed for the club that same season, he formed the fatal tandem, one that has struck fear in the opposing defenses and brought all too long waited success for Real.
The realization of his dream of capturing major trophies continued the following season, when he won the Champions League with Real Madrid, although he only played a couple of stoppage-time minutes in the final against Juventus.
In the 1998a 99 season, his role at Real Madrid nevertheless became largely diminished, despite the fact that he performed well at the 1998 World Cup that preceded the season. By the end of the season, he decided to leave the club after three seasons of playing for them.
His decision to leave Real Madrid also marked the end of his eight-season-long career in the Spanish Primera, which ended with a total of 114 goals in 239 appearances
He was the top scorer at the 1998 World Cup in France, where Croatia finished third, and represented clubs including Sevilla and Arsenal besides Real Madrid.