Lionel Messi was sentenced along with his father this week with the pair fined and even facing the threat of a prison sentence. The player will not have to carry out "time inside" due to his lack of previous convictions but the ruling of the Barcelona supreme court against the player is a major jolt for FC Barcelona and for the footballing community in general. The case coincides with a new tax investigation against Cristiano Ronaldo over the matter of 15 million euro in image rights. Once again we have Messi linked with Cristiano, Barcelona with Real Madrid and as is generally the case in Catalunya, a feeling of injustice being dealt out against the Barcelona side or as ‘Piqué dixit’ "the severity won't be the same".
Messi v Ronaldo
It's also true to say that both cases are different. Messi has been a Spanish resident since turning professional and a network of limited companies were discovered in his name in an attempt to pay less tax. After the unearthing, he and his father then created another company based in Panamá with the same objective. They were found out and the case went through the respective legal channels. Cristiano's case is distinct in that he moved to Spain in 2009, with an alleged network already established to avoid certain taxes. In 2014 he was alerted of his irregular tax situation and was forced to pay 6 million euro. He is now being told that he needs to pay a further 15 million.
View from Barcelona
The view from Barcelona is that while Messi was brutally exposed by the Spanish tax authority whilst Cristiano's case was detected by an international ‘football-leaks’ investigation. Again the feeling in Barcelona is that the asperity that the Messi case (and indeed the Neymar situation, despite being a totally different affair, that does get lumped into the mix) were dealt with by a higher level of severity due to the presence of legal dignitaries (such as Marta Silva, former legal head of state) who frequent the Real Madrid VIP section on match-day. Once again we have another version of El Clasico being played out, but this time in front of the taxman.