In May 2009 the married footballer, who had captained his Rio de Janeiro side to the top of the Serie A league and was linked to a multi-million-pound transfer deal to AC Milan, met Eliza Samudio at one of the sex parties he and other footballers frequently attended.
Fernandes became besotted with the 25-year-old, and she fell pregnant when a condom split. He insisted she have an abortion, but she refused, and in February 2010 gave birth to a baby boy, named Bruninho – little Bruno.
Fernandes turned against her, forcing Samudio – who provided DNA evidence that Bruninho was the footballer’s son – to take him to court for child support.
In June she was lured, with her son, into a car with the promise that Fernandes was going to give her a house. Instead she was pistol-whipped and driven to Fernandes’s apartment, where she was tied to a chair and tortured for six days, in front of her son.
Fernandes’s wife, another lover, a cousin and a former police officer, Marcos Santos all took turns to beat her. It is claimed Fernandes himself watched as Santos committed “barbaric tortures” on the victim, playing music to drown out her screams before strangling her with a tie in front of her son.
Her body was then chopped up and fed to the dogs, with the bones buried in concrete.
The boy was dumped in a favela.
Police took Fernandes in for questioning, and he told them Samudio had left the country.
“I pray that Eliza will appear, and when that happens, if I am the father I will fight for the guardianship, because I don’t believe in leaving a child,” he said at the time. “I have a clear conscience.”
But her friends and relatives did not believe him, insisting that the new mother would never have abandoned her son. Bloodstains, sandals and sunglasses were found in his car – yet he still protested his innocence.
Fernandes’s teenage cousin eventually confessed, but Fernandes continued to deny involvement. As he walked into court to face a murder charge in 2013, he told reporters he had a “clear conscience” and added: “In the future, I’ll be able to laugh at this.”
But he too cracked under questioning, and admitted that she was dead
. He claimed he had not made the order to kill her but had “accepted” it and knew she had been killed for a fee of £8,000.
The judge said Fernandes had “meticulously calculated” the execution, and it emerged he had tried to kill himself twice while awaiting trial.
Edson Moreira, the investigating detective, said: “His acts were almost impossible to describe without breaking down. Images from the worst nightmare you could imagine.”
The gang members were sentenced to between five and 22 years, while Fernandes was sentenced to 22 years and three months.
But Fernandes’s legal team managed to secure his release last month, after only seven years.
In February he told a Brazilian TV interviewer, according to The Sun: “I want to make it clear that even if I stayed here and was given life imprisonment, for example, in Brazil, it would not bring the victim back.
“I paid dearly, it was not easy.
“This will help me as an experience. It has been a learning experience, not a punishment.”
And on Tuesday he was expected to be unveiled as the new star signing of Boa Esporte, in Minas Gerais state.
“In Brazil we do not condemn people to death or to prison forever,” said Rone Moraes da Costa, owner of the club, in a statement on their Facebook page.
“Therefore, when a prisoner is released, they can find means of forming part of society; working and gaining dignity through work.”
But many disagree.
Four backers have dropped the club, including its biggest sponsor, a holding company called Gois and Silva, whose president initially backed Fernandes – but dropped out amid mounting pressure.
The teams’ supporters fear that television rights could also be withdrawn, given that Fernandes still has two thirds of his sentence to serve.
Protests are planned outside the ground, and the Popular Feminist Front of Varginha – Boa Esporte’s hometown – accused the club of trying to cash in on Fernandes’s fame while forgetting the suffering of his victim.
A Facebook statement noted: “We protest both against this contract and against the willingness of the team and its sponsors to have their images linked to feminicide.
“A woman-killer must not be allowed a life acclaimed by the media.
“Bruno is no longer just a goalkeeper; his notoriety reflects the ease with which a woman’s life is forgotten in the interests of a sporting career.”
But the owners have pressed on. Fernandes is due to have a medical at the club on Tuesday, followed by a press conference.