Premier League

De Gea feels at home at United

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Tue, 18 Dec 2012 10:26:00

Serie A title hopefuls Napoli will be deducted two points after Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluca Grava failed to report match-fixing.

Defenders Cannavaro and Grava were handed six-month bans, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has confirmed.

Former Azzurri goalkeeper Matteo Gianello has been banned for 39 months for admitting an attempt to fix Napoli's top-flight meeting with Sampdoria in 2010, with Cannavaro and Grava punished for failing to report their knowledge of Gianello's actions and Napoli penalised as the players' employer.

A disciplinary commision statement published on FIGC read: "Two penalty points for Napoli and a 70,000 euro fine. A ban of three years and three months for Matteo Gianello and bans of six months for Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluca Grava."

Gianello, now a free agent, confessed to attempting to fix the outcome of Napoli's Serie A match at Sampdoria in May 2010. Cannavaro and Grava denied any wrongdoing but are set to miss the rest of the season for failing to report Gianello's activities to the authorities at the time.

Despite making a strong start to the season, Napoli had fallen eight points behind league leaders and reigning champions Juventus, with Tuesday's deduction further distancing Walter Mazzarri's side as they slip into fifth place behind Inter Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina.

FIGC prosecutor Stefano Palazzi had previously suggested a ban of 16 months for Gianello but a disciplinary tribunal recommended a lengthier suspension.

A one-point deduction was the original proposal for Napoli, with Cannavaro and Grava facing nine-month bans, but those verdicts have also been amended.

Napoli, Cannavaro and Grava are likely to appeal the hefty sanctions through the FIGC before approaching the TNAS tribunal court in Rome should they be unsuccessful.

The disciplinary commission also issued a two-point deduction for Lega Pro side Portogruaro while Crotone were acquitted of any wrongdoing in a 2011 match between the two sides.

The FIGC's wide-ranging investigation into match-fixing, known as 'Calcioscommesse' saw Juventus head coach Antonio Conte suspended from the game for four months for failing to report his knowledge of match-fixing during his time in charge of Siena.

Conte's former club accepted a six-point deduction for their role in the scandal, with former Bari defender Andrea Masiello receiving a 22-month suspended prison sentence after admitting scoring an own-goal during a relegation decider.

Ex-Siena defender Emanuele Pesoli chained himself to the headquarters of the FIGC for four days in protest against a three-year ban.

The 22-year-old Brazilian has been a regular feature of the United side at right-back throughout the calendar year.

Aside from an aberration at Reading earlier this month, when he was substituted after just 31 tortured minutes, Rafael has been one of the side's most consistent performers.

Rafael told the club's website: "It's been a great year for me.

"I feel like I have grown up a lot and that I am maturing.

"My daughter was born this year, which has helped me a lot in that way, and on the pitch I have been able to play a lot of games.

"So I've had a lot of good moments, not just in football, but in life this year.

"I feel more experienced and like I am growing as a player and a person.

"I was only 18 when I first came here, I was just a boy. Some people may think I am still young and still a boy but now I feel like I am man.

"Playing games week-in, week-out helps you feel more comfortable and confident on the pitch and I'm pleased I've been able to do that this season."

United lead the Premier League by six points heading into the Christmas fixtures and the team are safely through to the knockout stage of the Champions League.

Rafael, who signed a four-year contract last summer, said: "My target for 2013 is like every player - we want to win trophies.

"When you're at this club that has to be your focus - we all want to win.

"And personally I want to play as many games as I can and be consistent in my performances.

"When you get into January you know the really important time in the season is not the far away and there will be big game after big game.

"Of course, every game is important but after Christmas they become massive matches."

The goalkeeper joined United from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011 and endured a mixed debut season as he struggled to establish himself as Sir Alex Ferguson's number one.

He again lost his place to Anders Lindegaard this season and that sparked rumours of a return to Spain, but the 22-year-old has no plans to leave Old Trafford.

"I'm very settled and feel like part of the furniture around the club," said De Gea in The Sun.

"I feel very much at home in the Premier League and, of course, with my team-mates here at the club. I'm enjoying life here and I feel I've settled well."

Parts of De Gea's goalkeeping have come under regular scrutiny during his time in England, but the Spaniard feels he is becoming a better player.

He added: "The biggest thing for me is that I've managed to work through some difficult times and those moments always make you stronger. It makes you a stronger person and a better player.

"I think I've improved right across the board, in all aspects of my game. I'm still only young and I feel as though I'm learning every day.

"I've hopefully got a long career ahead of me, so I want to soak up as much knowledge as I can while I'm young."

He continued: "I'm at a huge club now and there are big demands on you.

"As a goalkeeper, I'm well aware that any mistake can be magnified by the fans. But it's true that here at Manchester United there's added pressure.

"It's bigger right now than it was for me at Atletico Madrid and also for Spain Under-21s."

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