Former Manchester City and Real Madrid forward Robinho must serve a nine-year rape sentence in his home country of Brazil, a court has ruled.

Robinho, 40, was found guilty by an Italian court in 2017 of taking part in the 2013 gang rape of a 22-year-old Albanian woman.

Judges in Brasilia ruled on Wednesday that he should serve his sentence in Brazil following a request from Italy.

He will remain free pending a possible appeal against the ruling, lawyers said.

The former Brazil international, who has 100 caps for his country, was playing for AC Milan at the time of the crime.

After being found guilty he lost an appeal in 2020 before Italy’s highest court upheld his sentence in 2022.

Italian prosecutors then issued an international arrest warrant for him.

The footballer, who spent two years with Manchester City, told a Brazilian network on Sunday that the sex had been “consensual”.

Robinho won two La Liga titles in four seasons at Real Madrid, before joining City for a then-British record fee of £32.5m on transfer deadline day in September 2008 – also Sheikh Mansour’s first day as owner of the Premier League club.

After two seasons he joined AC Milan, where he spent the next five years before moving to Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande and returning to Brazil with Atletico Mineiro.