Perhaps in an attempt to avoid any further legal ramifications from charges of tax evasion levied against him, Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has reportedly paid €10M in back taxes.
UPDATE: Friday, June 28, at 12:53 a.m. ET by Eric Ball
So maybe Messi isn't in the clear just yet. Roberto Curtis of the TotalBarca.com reports that Messi's lawyers have denied reports that an out-of-court settlement was reached. Curtis went on to say the following:
Initially declaring they had done no wrong, the Messi family dropped a €10 million prepayment to cover Messi junior’s image rights for 2010 and 2011. But even that story cannot be confirmed with total certainty. The years in question however, dated back to the middle of the Joan Laporta era in 2007, which meant significant financial restitution needed to be paid. Sources speculate that the total amount paid could total close to €30 million.
---End of Update---
From Alex Duff of Bloomberg:
Lionel Messi, the four-time world soccer player of the year who’s being investigated for alleged tax evasion, paid 10 million euros ($13.1 million) to correct his tax situation for 2010 and 2011, La Vanguardia reported.
The payment to Spain’s tax authority could mean Messi is seeking to settle the judicial probe he is involved in relating to 2007, 2008 and 2009, the Barcelona-based newspaper said, citing unidentified people familiar with the case.
Public prosecutor Raquel Amado filed a complaint June 12 that said Messi and his father had evaded 4.2 million euros of taxes by routing income from endorsement deals with Adidas AG (ADS), PepsiCo Inc. (PEP), Danone SA (BN) and his club, Barcelona, through companies in the U.K. and Switzerland to Uruguay.
According to the La Vanguardia report (via ESPN), "Messi seeks a deal that would allow him to clarify what occurred over the three years in question."
Messi previously denied any wrongdoing via Facebook:
We communicate "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."
However, it would appear he's changed his tune given his reported payment of back taxes.
According to Forbes, Messi earns $41.3 million per year, making him the 10th-highest-paid athlete in the world. He made $21 million from his endorsements last year and clears $20 million annually from his Barcelona contract.
Messi was once again amazing for Barcelona this past season, scoring 60 goals and adding 14 assists in all competitions. He also set the (somewhat disputed) world record for goals in a calendar year for club and country with 91 in 2012.
Since first playing for Barcelona's senior squad in 2004, he's accumulated a ridiculous array of silverware, with six La Liga titles, two Copa Del Rey victories and three Champions League titles.
Individually, he's won four Ballon d'Or trophies, given to the best player in the world, and is widely considered the finest footballer alive today.
He hasn't had nearly as much success with Argentina, however, and many folks will want to see him win a World Cup, perhaps in 2014, before entering him into the conversation as the best player of all time.
For now, however, Messi isn't worried about personal achievements or titles as much as resolving his legal issues.