MANCHESTER UNITED midfielder Ander Herrera could face trial over an investigation into match-fixing allegations – but his new team-mate Alexis Sanchez has dodged court after accepting a suspended jail sentence for tax fraud.
The long-running probe relating to Herrera follows claims the result of a La Liga match in 2011 between Real Zaragoza and Levante was manipulated when he was a player with the former club.
Zaragoza won the game 2-1, which helped them avoid relegation and sent down Deportivo La Coruna, but there are allegations of cash payments made to Levante players.
Chile international Sanchez, meanwhile, accepted a 16-month suspended jail term for undeclared income instead of attending a trial in Spain.
Sanchez faced a court appearance over unpaid taxes of £886,000 from image rights deals during his time at Barcelona as he became the latest high-profile player to be hit by the country’s tax laws.
He pleaded guilty, and in addition to the suspended sentence the 29-year-old, who earns £14m a year at Old Trafford following his switch from Arsenal, has been fined £525,000 and ordered to pay the tax he owes.
Herrera has previously denied any foul play on his part and it is understood his stance from just over three years ago remains unaltered.
“I have never had and will never have anything to do with manipulating match results,” Herrera said in a statement in December 2014.
“If I am ever called to testify in any judicial hearing, I’ll be happy to attend, as my conscience is totally clear.
“I love football and I believe in fair play, both on and off the pitch.”
The case was reopened by Valencia’s Provincial Court last month after an appeal by state prosecutors and Deportivo La Coruna in light of more evidence.
Reports in Spain allege suspicions over infrequent electronic financial transactions made by Levante players in the weeks after a payment of £848,450 was made by Zaragoza into the accounts of the then Zaragoza manager Javier Aguirre, sporting director Antonio Prieto and nine players.
Spanish newspaper El Pais claim investigators suspect the Zaragoza players repaid the cash placed in their accounts to club managers so it could be given to the Levante players.
It reported anti-corruption officials have identified Herrera as the recipient of two cash sums of £44,000 and £35,000. The case could go to court this summer.
On the pitch, United defender Antonio Valencia reckons Manchester City could still blow the title as he urged his team-mates to battle to the end of the season.
Pep Guardiola’s side are 13 points clear of second-placed United at the top of the Premier League table with 12 games left.
But the Ecuadorian remembers when Manchester United squandered an eight-point lead over City in the 2011/12 season and had to watch their bitter rivals lift the trophy on a dramatic final day.
“We need to keep fighting until the end – we need to keep going,” Valencia said.
“A few years ago, we lost a title when we were eight points ahead and there were only a few games left. Now, we have a lot more games to play and we need to keep fighting.
“We will carry on with this mentality until the end of the season. We have showed that we have the quality and conditions to fight until the end of the season.”