Curious case of Fabio Quagliarella

Naples is a city that worships footballers; it can also be a city that comes to haunt them.
Curious case of Fabio Quagliarella

Diego Maradona was literally turned into an icon and was then driven out by a combination of crazed fans, hangers-on, paparazzi, and the vultures of the Naples underworld.

The story of Fabio Quagliarella is a lot less dramatic.

But that is partly because the drama took place in secret and lasted almost 10 years, only to be fully revealed a few days ago at the conclusion of a long trial.

Quagliarella, unlike Maradona, is Naples born and bred. He made his name as a striker but had to move north to do so, first with Sampdoria, then with Udinese, where his goals won him in a place in the Italy team for Euro 2008.

In 2009, he was so successful that the sacked Italy manager Roberto Donadoni made him his top transfer target in his new role as manager of Napoli and Quagliarella duly joined his boyhood club for a fee of €18m.

It seemed a perfect story was about to unfold, with the local boy joining up with new signings Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi to lead them to glory.

But Donadoni was sacked three months into the new season, to be replaced by Walter Mazzarri. And Quagliarella, despite a respectable 11 goals, was moved on the following summer, amid rumours of a falling out with the new manager and “conflicts with the south Americans”.

Worse still for the fans, their potential hero was to join Juventus — Napoli’s most-detested opponents — on loan and for a knockdown fee.

In the angry campaign that followed, death threats were delivered to Quagliarella’s address and even his parents received hate mail and became frightened to go out.

Over the past six years, Quagliarella has had to endure continuous abuse whenever he played at the Stadio San Paolo. It was worst when he appeared for Juventus, but the abuse went on even after his move to Torino, despite his refusal to celebrate goals against his hometown club. Only 12 months ago he was in hot water in Turin after apologising for scoring from the penalty spot in Naples.

The bizarre tale of why he left Napoli began to filter out gradually in 2015, but the details recently revealed in court are almost beyond belief.

The story dates back as far as 2006, when Quagliarella had some trouble with his mobile and asked his friend Giulio De Riso, a phone salesman, for help.

Giulio suggested they approach the officer in charge of the local “postal police” — by name Raffaele Piccolo — the postal police being the unit in charge of internet abuse and cyber crime.

Piccolo proved to be very helpful, and Quagliarella was happy to give him football shirts and complimentary tickets — for a time anyway. And when he made it into the Italy team a couple of years later and started to receive strange threatening messages and emails, he naturally turned to his police friend again.

But the abuse was renewed, and became still worse when Quagliarella was transferred to Napoli. Now the messages threatened to accuse him of taking part in orgies of drugs and underage sex in the company of gangsters from the Camorra.

Alarmingly, whoever was responsible for the untrue allegations also knew real details about the player’s private life and friends.

It was only when Quagliarella was chatting to a local lawyer friend, Giovanni Barile, while on holiday that both men realised that they were the targets of an identical poison pen campaign.

Careful investigation then revealed the person responsible could only be their friendly policeman, Signor Piccolo.

They were not alone. Piccolo had stalked another dozen local bigwigs and personalities — doctors, lawyers, the singer Guido Lembo, former Napoli goalkeeper Gennaro Iezzo.

Quagliarella’s case was, however, the worst.

He says that Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis cut off all communications once he was informed of the allegations and is claiming €500,000 in damages from Piccolo. De Laurentiis has yet to comment on the verdict, or the story behind that traumatic transfer.

Piccolo faces four years and eight months in jail. Italian justice being what it is, however, he may not be jaied for another few years yet.

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