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The manager of Tottenham’s Europa League opponent was just convicted of corruption

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Jose Mourinho could sit in a dugout beside a convicted criminal on Thursday, assuming Zoran Mamic doesn’t flee.

FBL-EUR-C3-KRASNODAR-DINAMO ZAGREB Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur head to Croatia for the second leg of their Europa League Round of 16 tie against Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday, a tie in which they lead 2-0 after the first leg in London. Dinamo is managed by Zoran Mamic, a former Zagreb player and executive with extensive and historical ties to the club that go back decades.

And as of now, he’s also a convicted criminal. News from the Croatian Supreme Court today confirmed that Mamic was convicted on corruption charges that go back years and that also involve his brother Zdravko, considered the most powerful man in Croatian football. That means there is a distinct possibility that Spurs manager Jose Mouinho will be sharing a dugout with a man who, unless something else changes, is shortly due to begin an almost five year prison sentence.

The whole situation is extremely complicated and understanding it fully presupposes some knowledge of the Croatian legal system as well as details about the inner workings of Dinamo Zagreb, neither of which we have. The Guardian and BBC have done a pretty good summary of the situation, but here’s the Cliff Notes version.

From around 2010 onwards the Mamic brothers — Zdravko as chief executive and Zoran as a coach — conspired together to embezzle millions of dollars from Dinamo Zagreb. This was done, according to observers, by siphoning off funds from expensive player transfers to enrich themselves, and through extensive tax evasion. In 2015 both Mamic brothers were accused and charged with corruption and tax evasion. Zdravko immediately fled the country to Bosnia & Herzegovina, where he remains today as an exile; he has dual citizenship and has not been extradited back to Croatia to face charges. Zoran was managing a club in the United Arab Emirates and appealed the charges.

The trial for the Mamic brothers took place in 2018. You might recall something about Zdravko Mamic’s trial, because it resulted in former Tottenham midfielder and superstar Luka Modric, whom Spurs purchased from Dinamo Zagreb in 2008, testifying under oath and later being charged with perjury. Modric’s testimony was viewed by many in Croatia as a defense of Zdravko Mamic and put him in a very negative light at the time of the trial. The perjury charges against Modric were later dropped, but both Mamic brothers were convicted. Zoran was given a prison sentence of nearly five years, but he was not required to report to serve his sentence immediately pending appeal.

While Zdravko remained in Bosnia (and with many adamant that he maintains a firm grip on control of Dinamo Zagreb despite the distance), Zoran continued the appeal process and remarkably was appointed manager at the beginning of the season (likely via his brother) while he navigated the trial.

That takes us to today. The tweet that Richard Wilson quotes above is from the Croatian Supreme Court and is translated as follows:

In an extensive criminal case, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of 4 defendants for corrupt tax supervision and money laundering from a football club. Property gain of over HRK 80 million was confiscated. All sentenced to prison terms, one defendant on the run from sentencing

On Zoran Mamic specifically, the Supreme Court spelled out his crimes after he was previously not convicted. He faces a combined four years and eight months in prison:

The Supreme Court finds that the trial court correctly determined the sentence for the criminal offenses committed by this accused and accepted the sentences of 1 (one) year and 10 (ten) months imprisonment for the criminal offense of inciting abuse of office, (one) year for giving bribed that 2 (two) years for aiding and abetting the abuse of trust in business and sentenced him to a single sentence of 4 (four) years and 8 (eight) months.

So what does that mean for Tottenham in their trip to Croatia to play Dinamo on Thursday? In short, not much. Near as we can tell, as it stands now Zoran Mamic will be required to report to prison in Croatia within eight days, or four days after the Dinamo-Tottenham match.

As Wilson hints at, there’s also a non-zero percent chance that Mamic could flee the country, like his brother did, meaning there’s also a chance that Dinamo could face Spurs in Zagreb without their manager. Either way, it’s extremely likely that Dinamo will be looking for a new manager imminently. And thanks to both Modric and this fixture, Tottenham Hotspur will forever be tangentially related to one of the biggest sports corruption sagas in central Europe.

Update: As noted in this article’s comments, Zoran Mamic has resigned as manager of Dinamo Zagreb after his conviction was upheld by the Croatian Supreme Court. Assistant manager Damir Krznar will manage the team on Thursday against Tottenham in Croatia.