De Gea feels at home at United

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.”