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Ander Herrera injured but that is the least of his worries with Spanish match-fixing indictment

Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera is one of 36 footballers who are being threatened with two-year prison sentences and six-year suspensions from football over alleged match-fixing. This has nothing to do with the Old Trafford other than Herrera currently plays for the club. The allegations stem from a match between Real Zaragoza and Levante on the 21st May 2011.

It is alleged that Herrera was one of nine players who played for Zaragoza at the time that received payments of up to £79,000 with prosecutors alleging that the money ended up in the hands of the Levante players after they agreed to lose the crunch match which stopped Zaragoza being relegated. Herrera, previously speaking about the claims has said:

“I have never and never will have anything to do with the manipulation of the results of matches. If I am ever called to testify in a judicial hearing, I will be delighted to attend.”

Former Zaragoza manager Javier Aguirre and former owner Agapito Iglesias are two of five club officials also facing trial in the match-fixing probe. The prosecution alleged in the indictment that Herrera and 14 of his former Zaragoza teammates “consented and accepted” the match-fixing arrangement that Iglesias, Aguirre, former sports director Antonio Prieto Martinez and the three former captains of the club reached with the Levante players for the match in question.

The indictment, which was lodged in the court in Valencia states:

“Under the agreement, the Levante players would let themselves be beaten at home on May 21, 2011, in return for a payment of £852,000 that was to be handed over to the players before the beginning of the match.

“To carry out this plan Agapito Iglesias ordered co-accused Francisco Javier Porquera Perez, Zaragoza’s Finance Director and the person who had the electronic means to do so, to transfer fixed amounts of money from Real Zaragoza’s account on May 17 and 19 to the bank accounts of Antonio Prieto Martinez, Javier Aguirre and nine Real Zaragoza players.”

It is stated that Herrera received £44,000 on the 17th May 2011, followed by another payment of £35,000 two days later on the 19th May 2011. It is also stated that Herrera withdrew the first payment (£44,000) in cash on the 19th May from a branch of Ibercaja bank in Zaragoza and the second payment (£35,000) the following day.

Herrera played 73 minutes before being substituted in the 2-1 victory which resulted in Deportivo La Coruna being relegated instead. It is said by prosecutors that Zaragoza attempted to legitimise the alleged bribes through payslips. The indictment states that Herrera payslip, P.Extra 5, was “created with the intention of hiding the true destination of the money,” on the 19th September 2011, which shows a total amount of £108,000 of which £28,500 was paid in cash. This was a genuine bonus for avoiding relegation from La Liga.

Prosecutors want each player to be fined £1.7 million as well as a two-year prison sentence and a six-year ban from all football. Sentences in prison of two-years or less in Spain, for first offenders, are normally suspended. If this happens though, it will mean United have lost their investment in Herrera and his services, which could bring a close to his footballing career.

The three Valencia-based judges ordered the reopening of the case after accusing the players under suspicion of providing “inconsistent” and “contradictory” statements in their written ruling. In the court document, it lays out Herrera’s position by saying:

“Ander Herrera denies having ever received money in cash from the club.”

It also states that Herrera never saw the payslip which had been referenced in the files and that the two payments which were paid into his bank; £44,000 and £35,000 were withdrawn and placed in an envelope and given to then-owner, Agapito at the entrance to the training ground dressing rooms without anyone else being present. Earlier this month, Herrera said:

“As I stated back in 2014 when this issue was raised, I have never had, and never will have, anything to do with manipulating match results. If I am ever called to testify in a judicial hearing, I will be delighted to attend as my conscience is totally clear. I love football and I believe in fair play – both on and off the pitch.”

No date for the trial has been announced but it will most likely be at the end of the year. The others facing trial have denied any wrongdoing. It is something the player will need to think about as it is possible that his career could be in a position whereby previous actions, which do seem questionable, could see his career end prematurely. Herrera did return for United in the 0-0 draw with Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening – lasting 17 minutes before being replaced by Paul Pogba due to an injury. Speaking about the extent of the injury, Jose Mourinho said:

“I think it’s a bad injury. The medical department gave [pronounced] him fully fit on Saturday. He trained on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and looked fit. 

“The way he was playing during the time he was on the pitch, he showed the intensity that is only possible when you are fit. He pressed a lot, really high; we started the match not giving one inch to [Ever] Banega.

“Then it was a backheel that created a contraction in the muscular area where he had the previous problem.”

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