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MAFIA? YOU'RE HAVIN' A LAFFIA; Kanchelskis pledges Russian game is free of mob corruption Andrei Kanchelskis Record Sport SPECIAL ON THE STORY THAT'S ROCKED FOOTBALL.

Byline: Chris Roberts

SIR ALEX FERGUSON once claimed the actions of Andrei Kanchelskis' advisors were straight out of The Godfather movie.

Kanchelskis insisted he was unaware of anything sinister going on behind the scenes during his pounds 5million transfer from Manchester United to Everton in 1995.

But the former United and Rangers winger is amazed UEFA are probing allegations that Russian mafia dirty money was used to buy Zenit St Petersburg's UEFA Cup triumph.

His surprise is not because the revelations dredged up painful memories of the past but that everybody is now talking about a Russian mafia.

The 39-year-old insists the Russian government destroyed the organisation and that corruption controversy sweeping the game doesn't mean mob bosses are influencing matches.

Kanchelskis said: "This is stupid and it really annoys me when I hear the word mafia.

"This word always gets linked with Russia. Why? You don't hear it in Italy or elsewhere any more so why is this stigma attached to us?

"For me it is a dirty word and it outrages everybody here when people bring up the mafia thing.

"It is stupid to think that referees or players have been bought. This just doesn't happen any more.

"You would know straight away if someone was throwing a game.

"When I played I never even heard about the mafia or criminals in the game. Everything was fair."

UEFA and Bayern Munich have launched a probe into the claims that Russian mobsters fixed it for Zenit to win their UEFA Cup semifinal against the German club.

Bayern went down 5-1 on aggregate, losing the second leg 4-0.

Two suspected Russian gang members are under arrest after Spanish police taped phone calls in which one said pounds 32million was paid to Bayern and the other said he knew Zenit would win 4-0.

Kanchelskis said: "UEFA have to investigate but nothing will come of it and nobody will be proved to be corrupt. It is not possible. There is no more mafia in Russia. In the 80s and 90s there were elements still here but it's been destroyed."

But Kanchelskis agreed with Zenit's Dutch boss Dick Advocaat that his side didn't need any outside help to lift the trophy.

Zenit beat Manchester United to win the European Super Cup but have lost both Champions League group matches to Juventus and Real Madrid.

Kanchelskis said: "Against Juventus and Madrid, they played well and proved they don't need money to match Europe's best.

"Yes, they were lucky at times last season. They beat big teams but that was because they were a very good side.

"It was an epic run and they had luck as well as quality but they did not have referees or anything else on their side.

"They had top men such as Ivica Krizanac, Andrei Arshavin and Anatoliy Tymoschuk and were too good for Bayern and Rangers."

But Kanchelskis believes the outcome in Manchester could have been different had those running Scottish football been as helpful as their Russian counterparts. Rangers ran out of steam and players and they saw their SPL championship dream snatched from them by Celtic.

But the former Ibrox star, who loved his four years in Glasgow, said: "The Russian Federation gave Zenit time to prepare for the final but Rangers didn't get that help.

"Zenit had just one friendly in the two weeks leading up to the game and Rangers were playing every few days and were losing key players.

"Zenit won because Rangers had too many games before the final - not because a referee was bribed."

Kanchelskis was dragged into controversy over his transfer to Everton when Manchester United boss Ferguson sensationally revealed he was offered a bribe and that threats were made to him and chairman Martin Edwards.

The former Russian international claims he was not aware of anything untoward but admits the game does have bent agents. Kanchelskis said: "Maybe sometimes agents are corrupt. When I moved to Manchester and then to Everton I had a lot of agents which was the problem.

"A lot of money was involved and there were stories surrounding my move but they weren't true.

"The agents helped me to move and looked after me.

"Maybe some agents don't do things by the book but I was happy with what mine did for me."

Kanchelskis, who is sporting director of Russian First Division club FC Nosta Novotroitsk, is still remembered fondly by Manchester United and Rangers fans.

He enjoyed his best years at Old Trafford, helping the club to their first Premiership title.

Kanchelskis said: "United are still my team and the number one team in Europe.

"I spent four successful seasons there and have great memories. I also had four great years in Glasgow.

"Manchester United and Rangers are still in my heart."

CAPTION(S):

BRIBE CLAIMS: Sir Alex Ferguson and Zenit St Petersburg
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 3, 2008
Words:809
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