Argentina and Barcelona maestro Lionel Messi, the only football player in history to win four FIFA/Ballons d’Or, is one step closer to serving prison time for tax evasion. On Wednesday, after a Spanish high court rejected his latest appeal, the winner of seven La Ligas, three Copas del Rey, six Supercopas de España, four UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and Dancing with the Stars has been accused of defrauding the authorities of €4m.
A Messi Situation (Parody)
The footballer, who denies any previous knowledge of financial misconduct, blames Jorge Horacio Messi, his father and enigmatic agent. However, unconvinced, the court ruled that Messi should not be granted impunity for his so called ‘head in the sand approach’ to his finances.
The remuneration related to Messi’s image rights, including a contract with Ryanair, the Irish low-cost airline that reportedly forbids employees from using the company’s pens and bathroom, has been intensely scrutinized.
According to El Fabricada, a Spanish newspaper, Messi was advised by Cristiano Ronaldo to avoid “reading, studying or analysing any of his contracts.”
The paper also reports that Messi and his father made a voluntary €5m “corrective, please make it go away payment” in August of 2013.
Joining Barcelona as a 3-year-old in 1990, Messi made his first-team debut two years later, scoring seven goals in the first seven minutes. After that unforgettable debut, Ronald Koeman, the former Barca great, commented – “I have never seen a five year old move so gracefully, I can’t wait to see Leo when he turns seven.”
After winning his first World Player of the Year award on his eleventh birthday, unsurprisingly, Messi was destined for greatness. Now, all these years on, he is widely considered the greatest players to ever grace a football field.
Nevertheless, reputation means very little in the Spanish legal system, and the Argentinian must now prepare himself for prison life. Leo faces up to three years in Aranjuez Prison, a facility located 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Madrid. This is no ordinary prison. It has 36 cell units for families, although only 18 are currently occupied, all but one with Latin American inmates. Messi, if found guilty, will be housed in the special F-1 section. Commonly referred to as the ‘five-star inn,’ the spacious unit come replete with cribs and Disney characters plastered across the walls, an adjacent nursery and a playground for toddlers. It sounds strange, yes, but the idea is for children to bond with their imprisoned parents while still young enough to be unaware of their ominous surroundings.
Commenting on the news that Messi may soon find himself in F1, Victor Manuel Lozano, a 28-year-old inmate, said – “They take good care of us, I think Leo will enjoy it here. We have a very competitive 5 aside tournaments on a monthly basis, and we play for a very special prize – cigarettes and chocolate. The competition is fierce.”