The disgraced agent at the centre of the Daily Telegraph’s investigation into football corruption says he made up claims eight current and former Premier League managers had received illegal payments, or ‘bungs’, for player transfers.
Pino Pagliara, who was banned from football for five years for match fixing in 2005, was filmed by undercover reporters posing as investors from a Far East firm saying several top coaches in the English game were “bent”.
However, the 61-year-old Italian told ITV News he simply told the reporters “what [they] wanted to hear” in order to secure a contract worth more than £400,000 and a renewable expense account of £60,000 to serve in an advisory role to the fictitious group purportedly interested in investing in the transfer market.
“At 61 years old you don’t get offers like that,” he said: “I’m still waiting for my company car and I don’t think I’ll get it.”
Pagliara claims the bogus investors told him they wanted to build a database of 30-40 players and intended to find a corrupt manager to shore up control at a club of their choosing.
“They believed that the only guaranteed and assured way of being able to do a transfer of a player was if they had a manager in their pocket,” he said.
“If the manager is taking money from us then we are assured of success. After trying to explain that wasn’t the case I felt that it was probably easier to say, ‘okay, whatever you say, we’ll bung them’.”
In one of the Telegraph’s videos, Pagliara is filmed at a meeting with Tommy Wright, where the now sacked Barnsley assistant head coach is seen accepting an envelope containing £5,000 – although he claims he persuaded Wright to take the cash on his behalf, unbeknown to the reporters.
He said: “I asked Tommy, because I needed that money, if he would lend himself to taking this money, allowing them to believe it was for him.
“But the actual fact is this … as soon as we were on our own Tommy Wright gave me that money.”
Pagliara – who labelled the Telegraph reporters “incompetent” and “ignorant” of the football industry – believes the list of supposedly corrupt managers was compiled on the basis of those he had worked with previously, but maintains he has never been involved in illegal payments for transfers despite his match-fixing past.
“Find me a manager that says he’s taken money [from me] or find me some evidence that I have given money to a manager then you don’t need to believe me,” he said.
“Then my name is finished. But I don’t think you will, because I haven’t.
“The Telegraph hasn’t got a clue of how [the football industry] runs. It doesn’t have any ability, any competence in the industry.
“Whether [corruption] runs deep or not the investigation would be better spent in realistic areas and not creating them because it’s hard enough to try to find the villains – why create ones that aren’t there.”
The Telegraph, whose wide ranging investigation led to the dismissal of England manager Sam Allardyce earlier this week, issued a statement to ITV News to stand by its evidence gleaned from Pagliara.
“Our investigations team had numerous meetings and telephone conversations with Mr Pagliara over many months,” the statement said. “The transcripts of our investigation, which are currently being prepared for the police and the FA, make it very clear what he said about a series of Premier League managers.”
Premier League club Southampton are awaiting full disclosure of the Telegraph’s investigation into assistant first-team manager Eric Black to advance an internal investigation, with Championship side QPR doing likewise in relation to their manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.