Lionel Messi in court over tax fraud allegations, as Spanish government take tough stance

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Giving the assembled crowd a thumbs up and a cheeky smile, you wouldn’t think Lionel Messi was just about to step into a Spanish courtroom to face charges of serious fraud on Friday morning.

It seems like he should be more worried than he is.

Messi, 26, and his father Jorge Messi are accused of defrauding the Spanish authorities of more than 4m euros ($5.4m) as the four time winner of FIFA World Player of the Year has been under intense pressure all summer, since the allegations became public knowledge.

(MORE: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi remains calm despite tax investigation)

Appearing before a judge in the affluent area of Gava near Barcelona, the Argentine attacker and his father deny the allegations, while The Messis’ lawyer said he wanted to resolve the matter. The root of the allegations comes after the soccer star and his father are suspected of using companies abroad – in Belize and Uruguay – to sell Messi’s image rights and skipping out Spanish tax obligations. They were accused of doing this from 2007-09

According to reports leaking out of the closed-court, the full blame has been put on Jorge Messi and Barcelona’s star striker Lionel had no knowledge of what was going on. Also, Jorge Messi has already paid the Spanish tax authorities 5m euros in August to settle the unpaid bill, with interest, and many thought the matter would be resolved rather quickly. However, with the Spanish credit crunch hitting many hard, it is believed the authorities want to make an example of Barca’s main man, as he allegedly undertook fraudulent activities, following several top companies paying for his image rights.

Whatever the outcome of this case is, many will question how other soccer stars, and other top athletes for that matter, are selling their image rights.

More to come…

Donnarumma in tears after Milan fans jeer him

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MILAN (AP) A visibly shaken Gianluigi Donnarumma was comforted by AC Milan teammate Leonardo Bonucci as insults poured down on the teenage goalkeeper from the fans. And that was only the warmup.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Donnarumma has swiftly gone from being one of Milan’s most adored players to its most hated.

After a protracted saga appeared to be settled in the offseason by Donnarumma signing a contract until 2021, speculation over his future has started again and supporters have had enough.

Despite the new deal being worth 6 million euros ($7 million) a year and including the signing of his older brother as Milan’s third-choice goalkeeper, Donnarumma and his agent, Mino Raiola, are reportedly looking to annul the contract because he felt pressure to agree to it.

Before Wednesday’s Italian Cup victory over Hellas Verona, fans unveiled a giant banner saying: “Moral abuse, 6 million a year and the signing of a parasite brother? Now go, our patience is finished.”

There were jeers ahead of the kick-off when the 18-year-old Donnarumma’s name was read out, and shouts for him to leave. He was in tears as he was comforted by Bonucci.

Donnarumma had to play the first half below the giant banner and his every touch was greeted with boos.

“Of course he’s upset, he’s only 18,” Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso said before his team plays Hellas Verona again in Serie A on Sunday. “For the age that he is, there’s no doubt that he will become the best goalkeeper in the world, but he’s not calm and it can’t be easy to go out on the pitch and be criticized by your own fans. I can only say that while he is with me he will always have my total protection.

“They’re turning a lad of 18 into a monster. And he doesn’t deserve it, he has incredible values. Luckily this was a match where there weren’t many people (about 9,000). Imagine how difficult it would have been with 50-60,000.”

It’s not the first time Donnarumma has faced insults from the stands. He had fake money thrown at him during Italy’s Under-21 European Championship opener against Denmark in June after it was announced he would not be renewing his contract, while a banner emblazoned with “Dollarumma” was also displayed.

“We understand the fans but I ask them to boo our opponents and not our players,” Milan sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli said. “Gigio is a young lad and he’s not entirely at fault, he loves Milan and one day he will understand what’s good and what’s bad.

“He needs to be supported and the club will do so because he is an asset. We know where the evil comes from and we hope to resolve this problem in the next few months.”

Mirabelli said Milan “has no intention of selling Donnarumma” and criticized Raiola.

“I don’t have any plans to meet with Raiola. I don’t have anything to say to him,” Mirabelli said. “There’s a man who is trying to damage our image but he is becoming more a showman than anything else. We laugh about it, but he won’t get away with it.

“Gigio has never said he wants to leave, otherwise he would never have signed through to 2021. There’s someone who is trying to organize something deliberately, but we will look out for Milan’s interests in every arena.”

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic named USMNT Player of the Year ]

Donnarumma has been playing for Milan since October 2015, when he became the youngest goalkeeper to start a Serie A match, at the age of 16 years, 8 months, 6 days.

He has made four senior Italy appearances and is likely to take over as the No. 1 after Gianluigi Buffon retired from international duty following the Azzurri’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Another Premier League weekend is on the horizon. Let’s just keep rolling.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Click play on the videos below for quick previews on each game complete with a score prediction from yours truly.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-1 Southampton (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

West Brom 1-3 Manchester United – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle United – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Bournemouth 1-3 Liverpool – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Leicester City 2-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Brighton 1-2 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Watford 1-2 Huddersfield (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Stoke City 1-1 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Everton 1-2 Swansea City – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Man City 2-2 Tottenham (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) –  [STREAM

Christian Pulisic named USMNT Player of the Year

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Christian Pulisic was by far the best player for the U.S. men’s national team in 2017 and he was duly awarded on Thursday.

[ MORE: Pulisic speaks to JPW

Pulisic was named the 2017 Male Soccer Player of the Year by U.S. Soccer, with the 19-year-old becoming the youngest-ever player to win the award.

He beats Landon Donovan’s record who was the previous youngest at 21 years of age when he won the award in 2003.

Pulisic won 94 percent of the vote, with Michael Bradley, Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore the other nominees. In 2017 he won nine caps for the USMNT, scoring six goals and adding four assists as the teenager became the main attacking talent.

The Borussia Dortmund playmaker was delighted to receive the accolade.

“It really is a big honor and I just want to thank everyone who voted for me to win U.S. Male Player of the Year,” Pulisic said. “It’s something that I never could have imagined to be here in this position. I’m thankful for everyone who supported me and I’m excited for the future.”

With the USMNT failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the first time they had failed to make a World Cup tournament since 1986, many had called for no U.S. player to receive the award in 2017.

However, Pulisic was truly deserving of the accolade as he tried his best to drag the USMNT to Russia next summer.

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Week 18 in the Premier League season is here and we are almost at the halfway point of the 2017-18 campaign.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for this weekend is below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Newcastle United – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton vs. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Southampton – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur – NBC  [STREAM]

Sunday
9:15 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Man United – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]

Monday
3 p.m. ET: Everton vs. Swansea City – NBCSN [STREAM