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Spain revamps Super Cup (and others should follow suit)

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Ever read a tournament concept and immediately think nearly every other league should adopt it?

La Liga is taking its version of England’s Community Shield — the Spanish Super Cup — and making changes that see the league season kick off in style.

[ MORE: CONCACAF Champions League returns Tuesday ]

Normally the winners of the Copa del Rey and La Liga meeting for a piece of hardware, the Spanish federation will now hold a four-team tournament abroad.

The tournament would include the Copa del Rey finalists and the two top league finishers (obviously extending to the third and fourth place teams if needed).

Flip it on its ear and imagine that MLS was kicking off its season not with myriad friendlies and the CONCACAF Champions League, but the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner, MLS Cup finalists, and Supporters’ Shield winner (especially if it was mandated that the cup finalists mixed it up in the semis).

For the Community Shield, you could include the Premier League winners, League Cup winners, FA Cup winners, and either the second place team or the “reigning Community Shield winner.” The gut reaction might be to rebel against “ugh, another game,” but if it’s taking the place of a Stateside friendly between second-choice sides? Come on!

La Liga: Real Madrid shocked again; Sevilla in freefall

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FA CUP: Crystal Palace, Swansea reach quarterfinals (video) ]

Real Madrid 1-2 GironaMORE

Madrid’s five-game winning streak is no more after Santiago Solari’s side suffered yet another embarrassing defeat on the season, this time at home to 15th-place Girona.

Sergio Ramos added yet another red card to his record tally — he now has 20 in La Liga play — with his side already 2-1 down after throwing away an early lead. Casemiro put Los Blancos ahead after 25 minutes, and win no. 6 appeared a foregone conclusion until it all fell apart in the second half. Cristhian Stuani converted from the penalty spot in the 65th minute — made possible by Ramos’ first yellow card — and Portu completed the comeback in the 75th.

The defeat sees Madrid slip below Atletico Madrid in the race for second place, now nine points back of leaders Barcelona. El Clasico is two weeks away, at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, March 2.

Villarreal 3-0 Sevilla

Once upon a time, Sevilla were the closest challengers to Barca’s crown. Now, following a third straight defeat — and having won just once in their last eight league games — Pablo Machin’s side is in an uncontrollable freefall.

18th-place Villarreal piled on the misery on Sunday, thrashing Sevilla to the tune of 3-0 and never letting the once-title hopefuls have a sniff of the game. Alvaro Gonzalez put the home side ahead after 20 minutes; Karl Toko Ekambi doubled the lead in the first minute following the halftime restart; Alfonso Pedraza completed the rout in the 86th.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Valencia 0-0 Espanyol
Real Betis 1-1 Alaves

Mourinho gets suspended prison sentence, $2.2M fine for tax fraud

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MADRID (AP) Former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho received a one-year suspended sentence after reaching a guilty plea for tax fraud in Spain on Tuesday.

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Mourinho will not have to serve time after admitting he defrauded Spanish authorities in 2011 and 2012. Sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders can be suspended in Spain.

Mourinho appeared before a judge in a Madrid court to confirm the plea agreement he had reached with prosecutors. As part of the deal, he also has to pay a fine of $2.2 million.

Mourinho was accused of defrauding Spanish tax authorities of $3.7 million in unpaid taxes. The money involved revenues from image rights, not salary paid by Real Madrid. He had already paid part of what he owed last year.

The 56-year-old Portuguese coach, recently fired by Manchester United, was in charge of Real Madrid from 2010-13.

Mourinho’s plea deal comes two weeks after former Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo pleaded guilty to tax fraud from the time he played in Spain. The Portugal forward received a two-year suspended sentence and was ordered to pay $21.7 million to Spanish authorities.

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Mourinho had appeared before a judge in 2017 and denied any wrongdoing, saying he had paid everything he owed to Spanish tax authorities from the time he coached Real Madrid. He said he left the country in 2013 with the “information and the conviction” that he was up to date with his tax obligations.

Gestifute, the agency that represents Ronaldo and Mourinho, released a statement at the time saying the coach paid ” $30.3 million in taxes, with an average tax rate over 41 percent.”

Several other soccer figures have been subjected to investigations from tax authorities in Spain in recent years, including Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano, Marcelo, Luka Modric, Alexis Sanchez, Ricardo Carvalho, Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Fabio Coentrao and Xabi Alonso.

Messi was found guilty three years ago, along with his father, on three counts of defrauding tax authorities of $4.6 million on income made from image rights.

La Liga: Atletico Madrid win again to keep pressure on Barcelona

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FA CUPSETS: West Ham bounced by third-tier Wimbledon | Millwall oust Everton ]

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Getafe

Atleti extended their unbeaten run to 18 games with a straightforward 2-0 victory over sixth-place Getafe on Saturday. As they’ve now done three straight weekends, Diego Simeone’s side cut Barcelona’s title lead to just two points ahead of the defending champions’ fixture. Each of the last two weeks, Barca have taken the field on Sunday and restored their five-point advantage.

Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring with a left-footed strike from the edge of the box in the 27th minute, followed by Saul Niguez’s tap-in of a rebound from Nikola Kalinic’s initial effort in the 37th.

Sevilla 5-0 Levante

Sevilla hammered 11th-place Levante for five goals to snap their four-game winless skid (two straight losses) and reclaim third place — for the time being — from Real Madrid.

Pablo Machin’s side got five goals, all in the second half, from five different goalscorers — Wissam Ben Yedder (48th minute), Andre Silva (60th), Franco Vazques (71st), Pablo Sarabia (80th) and Qunicy Promes (90th).

Elsewhere in La Liga

Leganes 2-2 Eibar
Valencia 3-0 Villarreal

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Real Valladolid v. Celta Vigo — 6 a.m. ET
Girona v. Barcelona — 10:15 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad v. Huesca — 12:30 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao v. Real Betis — 12:30 p.m. ET
Espanyol v. Real Madrid — 2:45 p.m. ET

Ronaldo pleads guilty to tax fraud at Madrid court

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MADRID (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo has pleaded guilty to tax fraud and received a two-year suspended sentence.

The Juventus forward, who was facing charges stemming from his days at Real Madrid, was in court for about 45 minutes and signed an agreement which will cost him nearly 19 million euros ($21.6 million) in fines.

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Ronaldo arrived at court in a black van and was wearing a black sports coat and black pants. He walked up some stairs leading to the court house and even stopped to sign an autograph.

Ronaldo made the deal to plead guilty with Spain’s state prosecutor and tax authorities last year.

In Spain, a judge can suspend sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders.

In 2017, a state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth 14.7 million euros ($16.7 million). Ronaldo was accused of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights.

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