Lionel Messi investigated on accusations of tax evasion

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Barcelona newspaper El Periodico is reporting that Spanish authorities have targeted Lionel Messi and his father Jorge on suspicions of tax fraud and tax evasion.

The paper cites a €13 million ($17.3 million) figure owed by the Argentinian superstar, although subsequent reports in other media outlets have set the target more around €4 million ($5.3 million).

The paper cites a source which describes the deliberate evasion process by Messi as having been channeled through a process which sounds eerily similar to money laundering.

The source says the 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.”

The period in question is apparently between 2007-2009.

UPDATE: Messi released a post on his official Facebook page denying the allegations. “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.” Barcelona refused to comment on the situation.

Forbes ranks Messi as the 10th-highest paid athlete in the world at $41.3 million earned last year between salary, endorsements, and the like.

The case, at least in the beginning stages, will be brought to court in the Catalan town of Gava where Messi is registered for taxes.

The 25-year-old has been with the Argentinian national side, making an appearance as a substitute in Argentina’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Ecuador. His country has all but wrapped up a spot in Brazil 2014, sitting atop the CONMEBOL table with 26 points. Argentina are scheduled to play a friendly with Guatemala on Friday.

Report: Man City adding Mendy to continue backline restoration

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Fresh off of completing a record deal to help bolster the club’s back line this summer, Manchester City is back at it with the Premier League season looming.

[ MORE: Alvaro Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

The Citizens are reportedly on the brink of signing Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy to yet another world-record fee — which will total over $67 million.

Confirmation of the deal has yet to be announced by either team, but L’Equipe is reporting that the Citizens are hot on the 23-year-old’s trail in adding to their pricy back four.

Manager Pep Guardiola and Man City have not been shy readjusting their defensive unit over the past year, adding expensive first-team choices John Stones and Kyle Walker.

Report: Alexis Sanchez meets with PSG ahead of proposed move

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Neymar has received a lot of the attention as PSG appears poised to open its checkbook to acquire the Brazilian, but another high-profile South American could very well be heading to France this summer.

[ MORE: Conte says Costa situation was was sorted out in January ]

Arsenal remains certain that it will be able to maintain the rights to Alexis Sanchez ahead of the 2017/18 Premier League season, but the Chilean and his representatives were reportedly in Paris on Friday meeting with the Parc des Princes side over a proposed move.

Goal is reporting that the 28-year-old and his team of representatives met with PSG officials for several hours on Friday as the second-place finishers from a season ago are set to offer over $58 million for Sanchez.

Sanchez has scored 72 goals across all competitions for the Gunners since joining the club in 2014 from Barcelona.

Mascherano still believes Neymar is “the future” of Barcelona

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The Neymar-to-PSG saga has escalated quickly, and signs of the Brazilian’s move to Paris are growing, but one Barcelona player remains confident that his compatriot will stay in Spain ahead of the new La Liga season.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

PSG has shown a willingness over recent days to meet Barca’s worldly $260 million transfer fee for the 25-year-old, while Neymar has reportedly alerted his teammates that he will in fact be heading to the Parc des Princes next month.

Veteran Barcelona midfielder/defender Javier Mascherano is one of the Blaugrana players that hopes Neymar will stick around and help anchor the La Liga giants for years to come despite a possible massive payday in store.

“Obviously he is young and I hope he’s here with Barcelona for many more years,” the Argentina defender said to ESPN.

“He is a really important player for the club. Because of his age, he’s the future of the club and we hope we can keep on counting on him.

“He’s accustomed to the pressure and people talking. There’s always going to be rumours and news around him.

“It’s really difficult to give advice. Firstly, I’m not anyone to be giving advice and secondly, I see him really happy here, really happy. [Barca] are a club that have made it possible for him to perform at his best. But after that, each person has to make their own decisions.”

If Neymar does bolt for Paris the complexion of the MSN-Barca attack changes drastically despite still boasting elite talents Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

[ MORE: Man United drops Man City in Houston “Manchester Derby” ]

Barca has done little in the transfer market this summer, only adding Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu and Nelson Semedo of Benfica. The club continues to pursue Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho, however, the Reds recently rejected a bid of $93 million.

‘Nothing is impossible’: Bonucci brings hope to AC Milan

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MILAN (AP) Nothing is impossible. That’s AC Milan’s new unofficial slogan following Leonardo Bonucci’s surprise transfer from defending six-time Serie A champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Neymar reportedly tells Barca teammates he’s off to PSG ]

Presenting fans to Bonucci via Weibo on Friday, Milan CEO Marco Fassone recounted how Italy’s top defender moved to a rival club.

“It started by chance and it seemed impossible but Leo interrupted me right away and said, `Nothing is impossible. When there’s desire to do things you can get them done.”‘

Milan has been on a spending spree following the club’s sale to a Chinese-led consortium for $800 million in April, and Bonucci is the top acquisition, so far.

“Leo doesn’t require introductions,” Fassone said. “It’s an extraordinary reinforcement for us. … He completes a mosaic sought after by (Milan chief sport officer Massimiliano) Mirabelli – a mix of younger players and experienced leaders who will make the road ahead easier.”

Other recent signings by Milan included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

Bonucci thanked Kessie for letting him wear his preferred No. 19 shirt, and pointed to Milan’s seven European Cups and Champions League titles as a reference point for a club that did not even qualify for continental play the last three years and hasn’t won Serie A since 2011.

“Milan deserves to be among the elite again in Italy and Europe,” Bonucci said. “When you are united you win. The strength has to be that of the squad whereas singular players alone can do nothing. We can get back to the top and that’s what this club deserves.”

Bonucci’s transfer fee reportedly topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Meanwhile, Juventus is reportedly near to signing prized winger Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina for a reported fee of 40 million euros ($45 million). The Gazzetta dello Sport reported Juventus will sign the 23-year-old Bernardeschi to five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.