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41 named in Spain match-fixing probe

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41 named in Spain match-fixing probe
Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera is one of 41 people named in a Spanish match-fixing probe. FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP
10:03 CET+01:00
Spanish prosecutors filed match-fixing allegations against 41 people including Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera on Monday, accusing them of rigging a decisive 2011 league match.

In a court filing seen by news agency AFP, state prosecutors alleged Real Zaragoza players and staff handed hundreds of thousands of euros in cash to Levante players to let Zaragoza win the last match of the season that year and thereby avoid relegation.

The prosecutors said Zaragoza paid a total of €965,000 ($1.2million) into the bank accounts of certain of its coaches, staff and players. Zaragoza won the match 2-1 against Levante, who had already escaped relegation that season, with two goals from Zaragoza's then captain Gabi Fernandez.

Spanish sports daily Marca said that if the case goes to trial and the accused are found guilty, they could face jail sentences of up to four years. Zaragoza's directors, coaches and captains "agreed... with the consent of rest of the players, to fix the match", the prosecutors alleged.

They listed five staff and 18 players of Zaragoza plus 18 Levante players among the accused.

Mexican Javier Aguirre, 56, was Zaragoza coach at the time but was fired a few months into the following season and went on to coach Espanyol. He was named coach of Japan's national side last June after Japan were knocked out of the World Cup in Brazil in the group stages without a win.

However, last week Japan Football Association (JFA) president Kuniya Daini said that they wouldn't have hired Aguirre if they had been aware of the match-fixing scandal.

Herrera, 25, played for Zaragoza in the match in question on May 21st, 2011. Manchester United bought him for £28.8 million (€36 million, $45 million) from Athletic Bilbao last June in one of the first signings by the English side's new coach Louis van Gaal.

Monday's filing was submitted to a judge in the eastern city of Valencia. The judge will decide whether to open a formal judicial investigation.

The recipients then withdrew the same amounts in cash and gave them to Levante players as a "bribe" to throw the match, the prosecutors said.

"The deeds described constitute sporting fraud," the prosecutors wrote.

Among those accused, Fernandez, 31, current captain of Spanish league champions Atletico Madrid, denied the match was fixed, when questioned by prosecutors in a previous hearing in the case on October 2nd.

He said the payment was a bonus and that he returned it in cash when the club asked for it back a few days later, judicial sources said.

Real Zaragoza filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2011.

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