Lionel Messi may be able to evade defenders and keepers on his way to scoring record-setting numbers of goals, but he can't avoid paying his back taxes, as the star striker allegedly owes millions of Euros to the Spanish government.
UPDATE: Wednesday, June 12, at 10:53 a.m. ET by Timothy Rapp
Messi responded to the tax evasion allegations via Facebook:
We communicate “We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities. We are surprised about those news, because we have never committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advices of our Tax Consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation.”
---End of update---
Dermot Corrigan of ESPN has more:
Barcelona's El Periodico newspaper says the attorney involved has told it that Messi and his father Jorge deliberately hid commercial revenues from the Spanish authorities from 2006 through to 2009 by channelling the income through front companies in tax havens.
The paper reports the amount owed as €13 million, though other media has the figure being sought by the authorities as €4 million.
The paper quotes its source as saying the alleged tax dodge "consisted of simulating the assignment of image rights to front companies based in tax havens [Belize, Uruguay] and, at the same time, formalising contracts of licensing, agency or benefit from services between these companies, and other such instruments domiciled in convenient jurisdictions [the UK, Switzerland].
This was done with the intended and successful aim that the incomes would move from countries where the companies or entities were based, to companies domiciled in tax havens, without being submitted to any taxation and, furthermore, with total opacity towards the Spanish Tax Authorities. The beneficiary of these incomes was no other than the person served - Lionel A. Messi."
According to Forbes, Messi earns a cool $41.3 million per year, making him the 10th highest-paid athlete in the world. He clears $21 million from his endorsements, including his main deal with Adidas, and he makes $20 million annually from his contract with Barcelona.
Messi was once again amazing for Barcelona, scoring 60 goals and adding 14 assists in all competitions. He's the world's best player (with all due respect to Ronaldo, who is also a once-in-a-generation talent) and one of the most visible athletes on the planet.
Since first playing for Barcelona's senior squad in 2004, he's won six La Liga titles, a Copa Del Rey and three Champions League titles. Individually, he's won four Ballon d'Or trophies, given to the best player in the world.
Oh, and he'll be turning just 26 in two weeks. Already at his young age, he's arguably one of the best players ever.
Per these tax-evasion allegations, it will be interesting to see if they hold up. Given this seems like a pretty well-orchestrated scheme rather than a few bookkeeping errors, Messi could be in some trouble here.