Ander Herrera and Gabi set for court appearances in match-fixing case
Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera and Atletico Madrid captain Gabi are due to appear in a Spanish court to give evidence in a case regarding the alleged match-fixing of a May 2011 La Liga clash between Levante and Real Zaragoza.
Forty-two individuals have reportedly been charged with involvement in an alleged fixing of the game at Levante's Ciutat de Valencia stadium -- 36 players from the two teams, and directors and team officials including ex-Zaragoza coach Javier Aguirre.
The case has been taken by Spain's anti-corruption authorities, who maintain that Zaragoza's 2-1 win, which brought three points that saved the club from relegation that season, had been agreed in advance.
According to El Pais, the state's case is that Zaragoza's board initiated the arrangement, in which a total of 965,000 euros changed hands, and that bank records show players were heavily involved.
Aguirre, who this week was sacked as Japan coach due to his involvement in the case, will be one of the first to give evidence at the court in Valencia when he appears in front of judge Isabel Rodriguez on Feb. 27.
Ex-Zaragoza midfielders Herrera and Gabi, meanwhile, are both due to appear on March 5.
The timing suggests that Herrera, not currently a regular starter for United, may miss the Premier League game at Newcastle on March 4. That game has a 7.45 p.m. GMT kick-off, while the player is due in court in Valencia at 9.45 a.m. CET the following morning.
Former Zaragoza president Agapito Iglesias is among the first individuals scheduled to appear on Feb. 25, with this set of court sessions running until May 6, when current Levante player Juanfran and his then-teammate Sergio Ballesteros are among those called.
The case has come from a push initiated by the La Liga authorities and Spanish government to stamp out the previously accepted practices -- in some quarters -- of "incentive payments" and agreement of results in advance when relegation matters are being decided.
Under Spanish legislation, jail terms of six months to four years are possible, but more likely if individual players, coaches or club officials are found guilty is a ban from football for one to six years. The clubs involved could face sanctions such as points-deductions or forced relegations if past bad behaviour is proven.