Police have launched an investigation over suspicions Barcelona forward Luis Suarez cheating to pass an Italian language test in an attempt to complete a move to Juventus.
Italian prosecutors say they have evidence that the language exam taken by the Uruguayan striker to obtain Italian citizenship was rigged.
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Suarez, whose wife Sofia Balbi is of Italian descent, passed the exam last Thursday at the University for Foreigners in Perugia.
It cleared the way for a fast-track citizenship approval which would mean Juventus could sign him without exceeding its permitted quota of non-EU players.
However suspicions were quickly raised in the media that he was given preferential treatment.
“The investigation showed that the subjects discussed during the exam were agreed beforehand with the candidate and that the grade was awarded to him even before the test,” the prosecutor’s department said in a statement on Tuesday.
Local prosecutor Raffaele Cantone, a former head of Italy’s National Anti-Corruption Authority, had been carrying out an investigation since February into University for Foreigners officials over various irregularities.
Cantone said his investigations showed the questions had been agreed with Suarez ahead of the exam and it had already been decided what mark to give him, despite his scarce knowledge of Italian.
Tapped conversations uncover Suarez suspicions
Police searched the university on Tuesday looking for further evidence, while Italian newspaper la Repubblica reported that five university employees had been put under investigation, including the rector.
Suarez himself is not cited among those under investigation.
La Repubblica published alleged conversations tapped by police during their probe, in which a tutor preparing Suarez for the exam told a colleague “he can't speak a word,” and described him as an absolute beginner in Italian.
“But what do you think, that we’re going to fail him? Today I have the last lesson (with Suarez) and I have to prepare it because he barely speaks a word” of Italian, Stefania Spina, one of the people targeted by the investigation, is claimed to have said.
Asked by a colleague what level Suarez “should pass” in Italian, Spina reportedly replied: “He should not, he must, he will pass, because with a salary of 10 million (euros) per season, you can't make him fail.”
“Even if he doesn't know how to conjugate verbs and speak in the infinitive.”
Suarez, 33, obtained the intermediate B1 qualification required for citizenship in just 15 minutes, his examiner said after the test, and was only required to do the oral part of the exam.
Other citizenship applicants taking the B1 exam on the same day in Rome, had to also complete a written paper lasting two-and-a-half hours.
Suarez’s mooted transfer to Juve now looks unlikely, as the Serie A champions have moved to sign striker Alvaro Morata from Atletico Madrid, while the Uruguayan international seems set to take Morata’s place at Atletico.
Suarez has had a controversial career including being banned for four months for biting Italy defender Georgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
He also bit an opponent while playing for his former clubs Ajax Amsterdam in 2010 and Liverpool in 2013, which were punished with seven and 10-match bans respectively.