Italian authorities are investigating whether Barcelona striker Luis Suarez, an Uruguay national, was illegally helped to pass an Italian language exam last week, in order to receive a European passport that could help him transfer to a new club.
Suarez, whose wife is of Italian descent, passed the exam last Thursday at the University for Foreigners in Perugia.
“Investigations have shown the topics of the exam had been agreed with the candidate and the relative score had been assigned before the test,” a statement from the Perugia investigative office said on
The test 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, but suspicions were quickly raised in the media that he was given preferential treatment.
Perugia chief prosecutor Raffaele Cantone said his investigations showed the questions had been agreed with Suarez ahead of the exam and it had already been decided what grade to give him, despite his scarce knowledge of Italian.
Police searched the university on Tuesday looking for further evidence, Cantone said in a statement, while Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that five university employees were being investigated, including the rector.
Suarez, whose native language is Spanish, 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 was heard telling a colleague “he can’t speak a word”, and described him as an absolute beginner in Italian.
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 transfer now looks unlikely, as the Serie A champions have moved to sign striker Alvaro Morata from Atletico Madrid, while Suarez seems set to take Morata’s place at Atletico.
Suarez has had a controversial career; at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, he bit Italy defender Georgio Chiellini, leading to a four-month ban.
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.
The former Liverpool captain joined Barcelona in 2014, after helping Liverpool come close to winning the English Premier League.
At Barcelona, Suarez has won numerous titles including four La Liga titles, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Champions League, and a Club World Cup.