Catalonia’s top court on Thursday found former Brazil footballer Dani Alves guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in a Barcelona nightclub in 2022, sentencing him to four and a half years in prison.
The court also ordered that Alves pay €150,000 ($162,990) to the victim.
“The sentence considers that it has been proven that the victim did not consent, and that there is evidence, in addition to the testimony of the plaintiff, to consider the rape proven,” the court said in a statement.
Alves had maintained the sex was consensual, and his lawyers told reporters outside the courthouse that he intends to appeal the sentence, which also includes a five-year probation upon release and a nine and a half year restraining order.
The prosecutor had been seeking a nine-year prison term.
“We are satisfied as the sentence recognises what we’ve been saying all along: that the victim was telling the truth and that she suffered,” the victim’s lawyer David Saenz told reporters outside the courthouse, adding that his team would still analyse whether the sentence corresponds to the gravity of the crime.
Alves’ lawyer, Ines Guardiola, disagreed with the sentencing, saying: “We are going to appeal. I still believe in Dani Alves’ innocence. We haven’t read the whole sentence yet because it’s very long, but we are going to study it in detail now. We defend [Alves’] innocence.”
Alves, 40, was first arrested in January 2023 after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman in the bathroom of an upscale Barcelona nightclub in the early hours of Dec. 31, 2022.
Alves had remained in preventive pre-trial prison in Spain ever since, with a judge turning down regular requests for bail and deeming him a flight risk.
The case was heard over three days at a court in Barcelona earlier this month, with Alves changing his story for the fifth time shortly before the trial began.
At first, he maintained he did not know the alleged victim. He later said he had met the woman in the bathroom of the club but that nothing happened.
The former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain defender, when confronted with biological evidence, changed his version of events again, saying she had consensually performed oral sex on him.
Last April, following the results of further biological tests, Alves admitted for the first time that he had sex with the woman, claiming it was consensual and that he had lied to hide his infidelity to his wife.
Ahead of the hearing, Alves stated for the first time that he was drunk on the night.
“I am not that type of man,” Alves said in response to his defence lawyer asking if he had forced her to have sexual relations during the trial.
The alleged victim told state prosecutors that she danced with Alves and willingly entered the bathroom, but that later when she wanted to leave he would not let her. She said he slapped her, insulted her and raped her.
Alves denied that.
“We were both enjoying ourselves,” Alves said, while repeatedly saying that the woman never asked to leave or made any indication that she did not want to have sexual relations with him. He also denied having slapped or insulted her.
During the three-day trial, a friend and cousin of the alleged victim said she was “distraught” after exiting the bathroom, while police officers who attended to her on the night testified she was greatly shaken and told them she had been sexually assaulted by Alves.
Alves’ friend who was with him said the footballer had drank wine and whiskey before going to the nightclub — being drunk can be considered an extenuating factor by a court and lead to a shorter prison sentence.
According to his friend, Alves and the woman danced together and showed “chemistry” before going into the bathroom and that he hadn’t noticed anything wrong with the woman afterward.
A forensic psychologist who examined the woman testified that she was suffering from “post-traumatic” symptoms, a conclusion that was disputed by an outside expert called by the defence.
Throughout a career which lasted over 20 years, Alves won major titles with elite clubs including Barça, Juventus and PSG. He also helped Brazil win two Copa Americas and an Olympic gold medal at the age of 38.
He played at his third World Cup, the only major title he’s not won, in 2022. He played for Barça from 2008-16 and briefly rejoined the club for a second spell in 2022 before moving to Mexico with Pumas.
Alves’ contract with the Mexican club was terminated immediately following his arrest.
Information from ESPN’s Sam Marsden contributed to this report.