Leo Ponzio

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River captain could be banned from Copa Libertadores final in Madrid

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Just when you thought this story couldn’t get any crazier, there is new news that could see River Plate’s captain unable to make the trip for the Copa Libertadores final recently scheduled to play in Madrid.

After fan violence caused the suspension of the Copa Libertadores final 2nd leg nearly two weeks ago, and after a highly-publicized search for a new venue to play the match after it was determined that Buenos Aires was too dangerous for the highly charged rivalry game, it was announced yesterday the match has been scheduled for play December 9 in Madrid.

River Plate captain Leo Ponzio played in Spain with Real Zaragoza from 2009-2012 before moving to River on a free transfer. This past February, Spanish authorities are proceeding on a match-fixing case in which alleges Real Zaragoza paid $1.5 million to Levante to buy a win on the final day of the season, thus avoiding relegation. Spanish prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence and a six-year ban from the sport for the players and parties involved.

It is thought that, while the re-trial does not set to start until 2019, River Plate lawyers are concerned that the ban could be in effect until the trial concludes, at least in Spain, according to Spanish outlet Marca. No decision has yet been made on Ponzio making the trip, but the team is reportedly looking into the legal ramifications of his potential appearance in Spain.

This Real Zaragoza story and investigation has been made public for years in Spain and has taken a number of twists and turns. It was dismissed in 2016 due to a lack of evidence before being reopened this February. Other individuals caught up in the case include Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera, Leicester City midfielder Vicente Iborra, Atletico Madrid captain Gabi Fernandez, and Egypt national team manager Javier Aguirre.

Amid all the crazy happenings regarding this Copa Libertadores final second-leg over the last two weeks – the original matchday saga, the immediate aftermath of the fan violence, and the worldwide rescheduling process – this continues to muddy the waters as the new match date approaches.