An Italian man has claimed that up to 30 top flight footballers have paid him for sex.

In an interview on TV station La 7 the man, who plays football in the lower leagues, claimed:

“I have about 30 clients who are footballers and I would say that a dozen are Serie A and national team players – several times I have been asked to take part in group sex sessions.

“They all know I am a footballer as well but they like me because I am discreet.

“A lot of them are bisexual, they are married or have girlfriends. They have a respectable image but none of them will ever admit to being gay, not for the time being anyway.”

The third division player turned rent boy, who was identified only as Victory, claimed he is paid 1500 euros (£1300) for his services, but did not name any of his alleged clients.

“Most of the time we meet in hotels after matches, that’s when they get their only free time,” he said.

“They just want to relax and they don’t have any problems kissing me on the mouth. But they are all terrified of being found out.”

Last week Franco Grillini, an MP and honorary president of Arcigay, Italy’s leading gay rights group, put the number of closeted players in Serie A at at least 20.

“A lot of these players have girlfriends or wives – it’s all a facade,” he said.

“They are really scared of coming out because they are terrified what the supporters would say.”

In October a British former professional football player told a forum on homophobia he knows of a dozen gay men at the top of the game.

Paul Elliott, who played for Celtic, Chelsea and Aston Villa during his 12 year career, was speaking at Homophobia: Football’s Final Taboo, hosted by the FA at their central London headquarters.

Mr Elliott, who now works as an adviser to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said gay players do not come out because they fear the reaction of fans.

Justin Fashanu was the only British professional footballer so far to confirm he was gay. He came out in 1990 and committed suicide in 1998.

A 2006 survey found out that 57% of footballers think that football is homophobic.

Sepp Blatter, President of the Federation of International Football, commented on the issue earlier this year.

“There are gay footballers, but they don’t declare it because they think it will not be accepted in these macho organisations,” he said.

In April Luciano Moggi, A former managing director of Juventus, claimed there are no gays in the game.

He was speaking on the KlausCondicio programme on Italian television.

“There are no gays in football,” he claimed.

“I don’t know if players are against having them in their team but I definitely am.

“In the teams where I worked there were never any. I never wanted to have a homosexual player and I still wouldn’t sign one.

“I’m old school but I know the ambience of football and a gay wouldn’t be able to survive within it.

“A homosexual cannot do the job of a footballer.

“The football world is not designed for them, it’s a special atmosphere, one in which you stand naked under the showers.”

His homophobic comments chime with the reality for openly gay professional players – there are currently none.

Mr Moggi is banned from football until 2011 for his role in a corruption scandal.