I was threatened with three years' jail...for daring to expose the Manchester United star who tried to frame me for blackmail, says fitness instructor 

  • Fitness instructor had affair with £16m and married Marcus Rojo  
  • Claims she was offered money to spend the night with him but declined
  • She was offered £35,000 by newspaper to sell story 
  • Representatives tried to entrap Sarah with promises of cash to spin story 

She is not the first, and she certainly won’t be the last. When Sarah Watson found herself in the company of a rich and handsome footballer – and no doubt copious amounts of alcohol – what followed might to many seem predictable if not inevitable.

But nothing could have prepared the 34-year-old fitness instructor for what followed a brief and seemingly uneventful liaison with a Premier League star.

Because where some romantic entanglements might end with roses – or even a lame excuse – Sarah received the threat of jail, a draconian gagging order and, she says, the outrageous and disturbing claim that she was no more than a greedy blackmailer. Not to mention a £35,000 legal bill.

The case calls into question not just the morals of the player concerned but also the behaviour of one of the richest clubs in the world – and the way in which the legal system could be used to silence an individual with no access to highly paid lawyers.

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Sarah Watson was determined to clear her name following blackmail allegations

Tenacious: Sarah Watson was determined to clear her name after blackmail allegations

In retrospect, Sarah knows her big mistake was attempting to talk publicly about the affair when she realised the star was married with a young daughter. 

She had been shocked when he started bombarding her with astonishingly explicit messages and naked photos.

But she rapidly found herself pitched against the might of the football club, the spoiled multi- millionaire player and lawyers who act for several Manchester United stars who went to extreme lengths to keep the story out of the papers.

She was depicted in court – and in the national press – as a scheming blackmailer who demanded £100,000 to keep quiet about the affair. 

And it was on this basis that the player’s lawyers obtained a High Court order preventing her from speaking out.

They had not, however, reckoned on her quiet determination to fight back and clear her name – and now, after she successfully challenged the injunction, she can finally tell her astonishing story.

The Mail on Sunday can exclusively reveal that the player with whom she had this ill-judged encounter at a party last December was 25-year-old Marcos Rojo, the £200,000-a-week Manchester United defender and Argentina’s World Cup finalist.

We can also reveal that the married star was far from being the victim of a blackmail plot. In fact, it was the player’s representatives who tried to entrap Sarah with promises of huge cash sums in an attempt to spin the story their own way.

‘People who look after Marcos claimed I had demanded £100,000 to keep quiet about our encounter,’ she says. ‘But it was a lie and they knew it. They tried to trap me.’

It was a last-minute decision to go for a ‘girls’ night out’ with six friends in December last year that landed Sarah in her gruelling legal fight. 

'Spoilt': Marcos Rojo, the £200,000-a-week Manchester United defender who signed for £16m

'Spoilt': Marcos Rojo, the £200,000-a-week Manchester United defender who signed for £16m

She and her friends were drinking cocktails in the popular Neighbourhood bar in Manchester, when they were approached by a bouncer and invited to join a private party upstairs.

It was a Christmas party for Manchester United’s players – notably without their wives or girlfriends, but packed with pretty young girls who were hand-picked by minders and told to leave their mobile phones in a bucket to prevent them taking any embarrassing pictures.

With her bee-stung lips, long blonde hair extensions and attractive figure, Sarah has the looks of a typical WAG, and was quickly approached by the handsome Argentinian Rojo, who joined Manchester United for a £16 million fee last year. 

She says: ‘He came over to me and sat down. His English was quite bad but he was chatty and said nice things to me about how I looked and how he liked my Versace dress.

‘He said “You’re gorgeous, you’re the best looking girl in here.” It was all very cheesy, but he’s so good looking that I gave him my number.’

Rojo invited her to his friend’s flat for a more private party, but she declined and they parted. He then sent a text at 2am. “My love, where are you?” he asked.

 His English was quite bad but he was chatty and said nice things to me about how I looked and how he liked my Versace dress.

This time, Sarah was flattered by the attention. ‘It was a bit of an ego boost for me. There were a lot of young, pretty girls that night, but he wanted me.’

So she and a girlfriend booked a taxi to the address he sent her. When they arrived at the flat in the centre of the city, a friend of Rojo’s – known in court as Mr X but who today can be named as Kristian Bereit – made a shocking proposition.

‘He asked me how much it would cost for me to have sex with Marcos. I told him that I was not a prostitute.’

But she did find the Argentine star’s dusky looks attractive and they ended up in a bedroom. ‘I did it because I liked him, not for money or with any intention to sell the story on,’ she says.

Indeed, she insists that although they never met again, the player continued to send her text messages and emails for nearly three months. 

At first they were innocent exchanges, with inquiries about her day and desperate pleas to meet up. 

But exactly a month to the day they had met, he sent an explicit picture of himself lying in bed naked.

Sarah refused to respond in kind. ‘To be honest I was shocked,’ she says. ‘It was a bit risky. I discovered that he had a wife and daughter, but I did not think it was the first time he had done something like that.

‘These guys are like spoiled rich kids. They are overpaid, oversexed and have a sense of entitlement.’

As is often the nature of these things, news of their encounter leaked out – there had been several witnesses to their flirting – and Sarah found herself being approached by a red-top newspaper, keen to report the intimate details of her sexual encounter. 

She eventually accepted an offer of £30,000, which was never paid.

'Cheesy': Rojo celebrates Manchester United's 3-1 win yesterday with Angel di Maria

'Cheesy': Rojo celebrates Manchester United's 3-1 win yesterday with Angel di Maria

After the newspaper contacted Manchester United for a comment, Bereit contacted Sarah and they arranged to meet at the Lowry hotel in downtown Manchester. 

‘He was sat in the corner and looked dead nervous. He looked grey. He’s about 30. We sat down. My mum was with me and he asked us to turn off our phones and put them on the table in front of us.

‘Then he put his head in his hands and said “What have you done? Why didn’t you contact me and we could have sorted it out?” ’

‘I told him that the paper came to me and he suggested someone had tipped them off.’

According to Sarah’s sworn court statement, seen by The Mail on Sunday, Bereit then asked her ‘What do you want? Money is no object.’ 

Then, after making several phone calls, he returned and whispered in her ear ‘£100,000’, to which she said ‘Yes OK.’

Sarah insists she never mentioned a price. ‘I said “You’ve brought me here and I was quite happy with what I was getting [from the paper]. 

You tell me what you want to give me” and he said £100,000 – but in cash to avoid a paper trail.’

Although Bereit was a friend of Rojo and not employed by Manchester United, Sarah was suspicious that the player, his agent and the club were all aware of the meeting.

Indeed, she now has proof that all those parties conspired to engineer a follow-up phone call to try to prove she was making blackmail demands. 

These guys are like spoiled rich kids. They are overpaid, oversexed and have a sense of entitlement. 

After legal advice, Bereit tried to trap her with a taped phone conversation. The High Court heard that ‘Mr X [Bereit] made the call in the presence of [the player’s] agent and a representative of the club, whose identity was not given.’

Bereit said: ‘I need a ballpark figure.’ She replied: ‘Why, why, why don’t you tell me what they can offer...because to be honest I’m getting sick of it.’

The phone call was not conclusive, yet Manley’s – Rojo’s lawyers who have also acted for other Manchester United players – used it to help get an injunction which was then served to Sarah. 

She says: ‘Early in the morning a guy came to the door... he threatened me with arrest in an hour unless I signed.

‘I’ve heard about girls getting two or three years in prison so I said “I’ve not tried to blackmail anyone.” ’

She signed, but said: ‘That’s when I decided to fight it. They were trying to frighten me. They said I’d be liable to £35,000 in court costs. I feel like they’ve bullied me.

‘They knew I wasn’t working, they knew I was at college. They tried to stitch me up. Mr X told me: “I do this all the time”.

‘They’re just so powerful. They probably thought “She’s a cheeky bitch, she’s trying it on”. They’re a ruthless giant. They tried to hoover it all away so no one would know, but you can’t hoover up the truth, can you?

‘I just wish I’d never got involved with the likes of them. This has been a total nightmare. I’ve not been sleeping and I’ve lost weight.’

She says: ‘I didn’t set out to do a kiss and tell, but the chance to make some money to pay for my personal training course was very tempting. I’m a single woman and I had not done anything illegal or that I was ashamed of.’

And yet, to her utter astonishment, she found herself portrayed in the tabloid paper as a greedy party girl trying to extort money from the club to keep quiet.

Although she was not named, due to the legal order, the resulting story made a front page under the headline ‘Prem Star in £100k Sex Blackmail Plot’.

A furious Sarah added: ‘[Rojo] and his people contrived to make me look like a greedy cow, when it was them who offered me £100,000 as hush money. That’s why I was so desperate to clear my name.’

No lawyer in the city would touch her case, so Sarah went to Liverpool, where Cassell Moore solicitors agreed a no-win, no-fee deal. Partner Dominic McGinn, who specialises in sports law, told her they could prove the injunction was based on lies. 

Unfaithful: Rojo, pictured here against Aston Villa's Christian Benteke yesterday is married with a young daughter

Unfaithful: Rojo, pictured here against Aston Villa's Christian Benteke yesterday is married with a young daughter

‘They told me most others would have buckled under the pressure, but I thought I could win. The other parties withheld information from the judge. But the injunction was lifted because I showed them everything.’

Last month Mr Justice Warby made a ruling in the High Court that overturned the gagging order and ordered Rojo to pay Sarah’s estimated £25,000 legal costs. 

He said the court was not given all the facts and there had been no evidence from the footballer that he was concerned about privacy for his sexual conduct.

The judge declared that the anonymity order had been driven by others ‘with strong grounds for inferring, as I do, that commercial motives play a considerable role.’

He quashed the right to privacy because: ‘The sexual relationship here was fleeting and involved a single act.’

Mr Justice Warby dismissed the blackmail allegation and argued that if the star is not named ‘there is likely to be speculation about the identity of the unnamed footballer. Others may unjustly be brought under suspicion.’

The judge refused Rojo permission to appeal, claiming it would have ‘no real prospect of success’. But he gave him ten days to apply directly to the Court of Appeal – which has not been taken up.

Sarah is naturally delighted to have been vindicated. She said: ‘What happened to me shows how wealthy people use injunctions to bully poor people. It is a small mistake that has caused me so much pain and anguish.

‘I am not proud of what I did, but I’m a single woman and I was just having a good time. I probably showed poor judgment on the night, but I did not deserve what they put me through’.

It has been a salutary lesson and she vows to keep well away from footballers from now on.

For Rojo, yesterday it was business as usual as the defender starred in Manchester United’s 3-1 Premier League win over Aston Villa.

Watching from the stands at Old Trafford was his beautiful wife Eugenia Lusardo, a lingerie model based in Lisbon, and their young daughter, Morena.

Karen Shotbolt, Manchester United’s media relations manager, was given a detailed list of questions by The Mail on Sunday on the legal case and the club’s role in it.

She would say only: ‘It’s not something the club would want to comment on, and the player is not available for comment.’

Mr Bereit was also unavailable for comment last night.


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