Manchester United midfielder, Ander Herrera, was hit with a new setback on Monday after it emerged that La Liga prosecutors wanted him jailed for four years over an alleged involvement in match-fixing.
Spanish state prosecutors said they were demanding a two-year prison sentence and six-year soccer ban for the midfielder and 35 other footballers in an indictment lodged with a court in Valencia earlier this month.
Two-year prison sentences for first-time offenders in Spain are normally suspended, meaning that if Herrera was convicted of sports corruption he would probably escape jail.
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But on Monday it emerged lawyers for Spain’s top league, who have also launched legal action against the footballers involved in the under-suspicion May 2011 match between Herrera’s old side Zaragoza and Levante, were demanding stiffer penalties than the state lawyers if they are found guilty of sports corruption.
Respected newspapers including Valencia-based daily Las Provincias said the four-year prison demands — the maximum sentence possible — were part of the indictment La Liga lawyers have lodged with Valencia’s Court of Instruction Number Eight.
The indictment is also understood to call for the same six-year worldwide soccer ban the state wants them hit with if the footballers including Herrera are convicted at a trial expected to take place at the end of this year or the start of next.
Deportivo La Coruna, the team which was relegated as a result of Zaragoza’s 2-1 away win against Levante, has yet to submit its indictment.
Sources at the club said they were unable to say when its lawyers would lodge their formal accusation in writing.
Under Spanish law, lawyers for the club and La Liga can prosecute the footballers in the same courtroom as part of cases that run parallel to the state prosecution.
It is customary practice for lawyers leading parallel prosecutions to the state one to demand stiffer penalties.
Liga press officers had yet to make an official comment on Monday afternoon.
Asked earlier this month about the reopening of the long-running case into alleged match-fixing, a La Liga spokesman said: ‘La Liga doesn’t comment on stories published in the press.
‘If we were make to an official comment, we would do it through the normal channels.’
Spanish newspaper, Las Provincias, said La Liga lawyers were also demanding fines for the footballers of €2.9million (£2.56m) each — more than the £1.7m fines state prosecutors want them to pay if convicted.
The other footballers facing trial along with Herrera on a charge of sports corruption include Atletico Madrid star Gabi, former Middlesborough striker Cristhian Stuani and Javi Venta, who ended his career at Brentford.
Zaragoza’s then-manager Javier Aguirre and ex-owner Agapito Iglesias are also being prosecuted.
Spanish anticorruption state prosecutors have claimed in their 17-page indictment cash paid to nine Zaragoza footballers including Herrera by the club was returned in cash so it could be handed over to the Levante players.
The state prosecutors claim they agreed to ‘lose’ the crunch match n May 21, 2011 and help their rivals avoid relegation once they received payment of €965,000 (£852,000).
The suspect match between Zaragoza and Levante hit the headlines earlier this month after it emerged the case had been reopened following an earlier decision to shelve it after a lengthy investigation.
The three Valencia-based judges who ordered the reopening of the case accused the players under suspicion of providing ‘inconsistent’ and ‘contradictory’ statements in their written ruling.
Herrera said earlier this month: “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.”
The others facing trial have all denied any wrongdoing.