Whilst discussion around Spanish Football has been dominated in recent weeks by Real Madrid and Barcelona’s respective Champions League exits - and subsequently Jose Mourinho's somewhat murky future - a match fixing scandal is simmering in Spain.
The situation surrounds the April 13 game between Levante and Deportivo, where relegation-threatened Depor came away from Ciutat de Valencia with a stunning 4-0 win, to increase their burgeoning hopes of survival. The scoreline was something of a surprise, particularly as Depor had managed three goals in just 16 first half minutes.
A fortnight on and curious reports emerged from Levante that had Javier Barkero apparently accusing four of his experienced teammates – Gustavo Munua, Sergio Ballasteros, Juanlu and Juanfran - of lacking the desire to win the game. Where Barkero then confirmed these reports before retracting his accusation and apologising, they were followed by the revelation that even before the game was played, the Spanish Football (LFP) had placed the game under investigation.
The club have since released a statement: “Levante is an institution that ensures fair play and fighting for full transparency in the competition. The board believes in the professionalism and integrity of all the players of the first team, who have been involved in major sporting achievements of our history.”
But the news was enough to draw displeasure from others indirectly implicated, as Deportivo Coach Fernando Vazquez reflected: “These are declarations from a footballer who should really know better. As a sports professional, I feel a little offended by what he has said but our conscience is clear – I don’t know whether I can say the same for Barkero though.
“Football scores can be explained in a thousand different ways. It’s astonishing for a professional to insinuate that players who have not been receiving their pay packets are involved in match-fixing. It’s unforgivable to make remarks which can cause so much damage.”
Deportivo's 4-0 win against Levante was their fourth on the bounce and, whilst three consecutive draws have not been enough to see them drop just back into the drop-zone in Week 34, their recent form is the reason that they now have a fighting chance of survival as we enter the final weeks of the season. Levante, on the other hand, have collected just one point since the incidents against Depor, and the recent results are symptomatic of Los Granotes’ struggles in the second half of the season.
LFP president Javier Tebas, who has recently been very outspoken on the subject of match-fixing and the need to eradicate cheating in football, has stated that there is ‘considerable evidence’ against Levante and is determined to prove any wrongdoing in Spanish football.
“That game, since before it was played, was under investigation. I’m convinced that this time I will be able to prove it. There is considerable evidence that we hope will result in a trial.
“The biggest hint is that a player himself has accused his peers and repeatedly so, that’s very important. The value of a trial would be to consider others. That Barkero later retracted his accusation does not mean anything.”
The investigation has been passed on to the Anti-corruption Office, and whilst it may throw the penultimate weeks of the season into a state of flux, Tebas’ desire to throw light on the situation may lead to a cleaner future without suspicions cast on any future end-of-season performances from teams in La Liga.