NUNO ESPIRITO SANTO has hit back at claims UEFA has favoured Wolves by appointing an all PORTUGUESE refereeing team for Thursday’s Europa League qualifier in Turin.
The Italians are incensed Artur Soares Dias and his fellow Portuguese assistants Rui Tavares and Paulo Soares will take charge of a tie involving a club with SEVEN Portuguese players – four of whom are sure to start.
Torino are seething that Rui Patricio, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Diogo Jota are Portuguese internationals with massive reputations who can converse with Dias in his native tongue on the pitch.
Meanwhile, Nuno plus six of his backroom staff – including Scottish No.2 Ian Cathro – are also fluent in Portuguese, allowing them to bend the ear of fourth official Joao Pinheiro without the Italians knowing what they are on about.
One local paper even suggested Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes may have influenced the controversial appointment, describing him as “the most powerful agent in the world”.
However Nuno has told the Italians to drop their conspiracy theories, get on with the game – and claimed he’s flying the flag for England!
“We represent the cause of Wolverhampton which is an English team,” he rapped at the official UEFA press conference at the Stadio Olimpico last night.
“Our native language here is English. Everyone speaks English to each other, there is no issue here.
“Come on, let’s play the game.”
UEFA even issued a statement last night dismissing Torino’s fears of a carve-up and insisted: “It has been the case in previous UEFA matches that the appointed referee shares the same nationality as some of the players and/or coach of one of the teams.
“We were aware that the English club Wolverhampton has Portuguese players and coaches, but we trust that the best available referee has been appointed for this match.”
Torino’s former Watford boss Walter Mazzarri refused to comment on the controversy but looked less than happy with the decision – and says he will only give his views AFTER the game.
“As you know I never like to speak about referees before any match,” said the 57-year-old.
“I will give you my thoughts after the match, when I will also give you my assessment of his performance.
“What’s most important to me is there is no news surrounding the referee after the game. I always hope every referee has a perfect match and isn’t the one making headlines the next day!
“Now is not the time. I will only discuss the referee after I see his performance in the match.”
Ironically, the decision to appoint Portuguese officials was made by UEFA’s Chief Refereeing Officer Roberto Rosetti – who comes from Turin.
However sceptical Torino supporters point out they share the city with ancient rivals Juventus, making it clear which side of the city they feel Rosetti favours.
“We never speak about referees before the game,” Nuno said. “It is the best way for him to be able to deal with the game normally – without creating any sort of pressure.
“It’s a normal game with good referees, good teams. Let’s play!”
Torino expect around 27,000 fans to almost fill the Stadio Olimpico tonight with at least 1,500 Wolves fans travelling.
That’s something flying winger Adama Traore failed to do in the last round, when he was left home alone in Wolverhampton – after a passport cock-up!
No-one could accuse the 23-year-old of being a passenger when Wolves travelled to Armenia to face FC Pyunik in the last round.
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Unfortunately Traore failed to make the epic 6,370 round-trip to Yerevan after he forgot his PASSPORT and was turned away at the departure gate!
“I did have a little problem in the last round,” Traore sheepishly confessed as he looked forward to making amends.
“Whenever there is a problem outside of the pitch I have to speak to the boss about it – and as he is alright with it, it is okay for me.
“If he had a problem with my error he would say it to me, so it’s not a problem now and I’m working to improve – inside and outside of the pitch.
“I really want to play in Europe. I’ve never played in Italy before so this will be the first time for me and I’m looking forward to the experience.”
This post written by Marc Mayo originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.