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…
MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.
That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.
[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]
Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”
Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.
Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.
Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.
The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.
[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]
And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.
It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.
Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.
Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday
- Man Utd leads all-time 43W-34D-28L
- Clubs even in last six (2-2-2)
- Red Devils unbeaten in 16
- Stoke winners of two-straight
After wins over Sunderland and Watford, Stoke City gets a higher class of opponent on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Fortunately for Stoke, it’s had some success against Manchester United in recent years.
Stoke and United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Oct. 2, though Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils are flying now. United is hard to break down, and arguably deserved better than the 1-1 draw it earned versus Liverpool last weekend.
Stoke is now 11 points clear of the drop zone, and a win could raise its status to closer to the Top Five than Bottom Three. United, meanwhile, wants three points that would move it to precipice of the Top Four.
What they’re saying
Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan on facing United: “There has been a wind of change there and the supporters seem a lot happier now and you get the sense that they are together as a group now. You only have to look at the players within the squad, and even the ones who are leaving, to see how much strength in depth they have there.”
Jose Mourinho praises newly-extended Antonio Valencia: “I don’t think it is a reward, I don’t see it in this perspective. I just think he is the best right-back you can have. There is no better right-back in football. It is just for us to keep the best. I don’t think it is a reward. It is a privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man.”
United gets it done, only barely. Stoke will put up a brave battle for boss Mark Hughes, but there are too many weapons to suppress. United, 1-0.
Like Group A, Group C in the Africa Cup of Nations has very little decided ahead of the final group stage match.
[ MORE: Guardiola “said goodbye to title” ]
Ivory Coast 2-2 DR Congo
A thrilling first half had DR Congo leading 1-0 and 2-1, with only Wilfried Bony netting for the Ivory Coast. Les Elephants grabbed a draw through Serey Die’s 67th minute goal.
DR Congo now leads the group and is primed to advance with a result against Togo or a Morocco loss or draw against Ivory Coast.
Morocco 3-1 Togo
Mathieu Dossevi gave Togo a surprise fifth minute lead lead, but Aziz Bouhaddouz kickstarted the Moroccan attack to plug the victors into Group C’s second spot ahead of a Jan. 24 showdown with Ivory Coast.
Ghana vs. Mali — 11 a.m. ET
Egypt vs. Uganda — 2 p.m. ET