Football greats fall foul of Spanish taxman

From Barcelona's star striker Lionel Messi to his arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, many football stars have fallen foul of the Spanish taxman over the past few years.

Barcelona's football star Lionel Messi (L) and his father Jorge Horacio Messi face judges in a tax fraud case in court in Barcelona in June 2016
Barcelona's football star Lionel Messi (L) and his father Jorge Horacio Messi face judges in a tax fraud case in court in Barcelona in June 2016 (AFP)

From Barcelona's star striker Lionel Messi to his arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, many football stars have fallen foul of the Spanish taxman over the past few years.

Ronaldo appears in court on Monday, accused of evading 14.7 million euros ($17.2 million) in tax. He joins a long list of football greats under the spotlight in Spain:

Convicted

Lionel Messi

The five-time world player of the year was found guilty in 2016 of of using companies in Belize, Britain, Switzerland and Uruguay to avoid paying 4.1 million euros in taxes on income he earned from his image rights.

He was sentenced to 21 months in jail and fined more than two million euros.

But his prison sentence has since been replaced by another fine of 252,000 euros, which corresponds to 400 euros for each day of jail.

Javier Mascherano

Messi's Barcelona and Argentina teammate Mascherano accepted a one-year suspended sentence in January 2016 for tax fraud after he was found guilty of failing to pay 1.5 million euros in taxes for 2011 and 2012.

Unlike Messi he avoided trial by admitting to tax evasion.

Angel di Maria

Argentina and Paris Saint-Germain star Angel di Maria was fined and given a 16-month prison sentence for tax fraud during his time at Real Madrid.

But the 29-year-old, who played for Madrid between 2010 and 2014, is likely not to go to prison as is normal in Spain for first offences for non-violent crimes carrying a sentence of less than two years.

Suspected

Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid's star striker, accused of evading 14.7 million euros in taxes, appears in court on Monday. The Portuguese star faces four charges of fraud through offshore companies.

Jose Mourinho

The Manchester United manager is accused of evading 3.3 million euros in tax in 2011 and 2012, during his time in charge at Real Madrid.

But Gestifute, which represents him, says he has already settled the matter with Spanish tax authorities.

Samuel Eto'o

In November 2016, Spanish prosecutors sought a jail sentence of 10 years and fines totalling 18 million euros for Cameroonian football great Eto'o, who is accused of failing to pay 3.9 million euros in taxes during his time at Barcelona from 2004 to 2009.

Radamel Falcao

Colombian striker Falcao is suspected of failing to correctly declare 7.4 million euros of income earned from image rights between 2012 and 2013 while he was at Atletico Madrid.

He has since paid 8.2 million euros to Spanish tax authorities, a sum that includes interest on the original amount.

Jorge Mendes

The Portuguese super-agent was put under official investigation last month by a Spanish court investigating alleged tax evasion by Falcao, a client of his.

The 51-year-old, whose other clients include Ronaldo and Mourinho, defended himself, telling the closed door hearing that he "never" advised players in tax matters.

Other footballers, including Brazil's Adriano, Chile's Alexis Sanchez or Portugal's Fabio Coentrao, have had similar legal woes.