Spanish tax authorities investigate payments from Barcelona to Lionel Messi's foundation

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Messi could be in hot water with the Spanish tax authorities again.

Spanish tax authorities are investigating whether payments from FC Barcelona to Lionel Messi‘s foundation were used to help the player evade taxes, Spanish daily El Mundo reported on Saturday.

The newspaper, which has acquired football Leaks documents, reported that the club gave the foundation “at least €12.7million between 2010 and 2016”.

The paper said that the payments from Barca represented 71.5 percent of the foundation’s revenue between 2013 and 2016.

The foundation says on its website that it “was created in 2007 with the wish that all children should have the same opportunities to make their dreams come true, and to promote equality in education and health.”

Between 2010 and the official registration of the foundation in June 2013, the club reduced the corporate tax they paid on the money by 35 percent, in line with rules on donations to charities.

Those payments raised the suspicions of the authorities which, in January 2016, began to investigate whether the money had been “remunerative” and evaded corporate and income tax. In April 2016, tax investigators visited the Barcelona offices – not for the first time in recent years.

After the official scrutiny began, the club stopped making the deductions from their donations and started withholding 45 per cent for taxes suggesting, the newspaper said, that the payments “were considered part of the salary” of the Argentine star.

El Mundo said that the club had urged Messi, already being investigated for a €4.1 million tax fraud relating to his image rights, to “regularise the donations to his foundation”. In the image rights case, Messi and his father, Jorge, were found guilty in 2016.

El Mundo said that, by law, 70 percent of a charity’s revenue should be spent on the aims for which it was created but a report in another Spanish newspaper, ABC, found the foundation’s accounts were full of gaps but included large sums spent on external consultants, rent and refurbishing its offices or transferred to its branch in Argentina.

According to documents examined by El Mundo, a tax settlement was paid to the Spanish treasury, in theory by Messi but ultimately by Barca, which made up the amount in a complex transaction days before the player signed a new contract last November.

That contract, which runs until 2021, will pay Messi more than €100million a year including salary and image rights according to information published on Friday by the European Investigation Collaborations, which includes El Mundo.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Barcelona's unveiling of €11.8m centre-back Yerry Mina

Colombian centre-back Yerry Mina was unveiled as Barcelona's latest signing.

Barcelona unveiled new signing Yerry Mina on Saturday after sealing an €11.8million move for the Colombian centre-back.

The 23-year-old will offer much-needed backup at the position, given Samuel Umtiti’s absence through injury and Javier Mascherano‘s likely departure.

For his part, Mina is thrilled at the opportunity to be learning from the likes of Gerard Pique, Umtiti, and the rest of Barcelona’s defence as he looks to become the latest South American import to succeed at the club.

Mina was trotted out for the traditional presentation at Camp Nou and did a good job of avoiding the hiccups that have derailed many a new signing’s big moment.

Both club and player will hope it’s the start of a long and successful tenure, with Mina quick to show his appreciation for the opportunity he’s been given – not least playing with the player he says is “the best in the world”.

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Ousmane Dembele's form and more talking points as Barcelona face Real Sociedad

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Barcelona travel to Real Sociedad on Sunday night, looking to extend their nine-point advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid at the top of the La Liga table.

Here, we look at three key talking points:

IS OUSMANE DEMBELE CLOSE TO HIS BEST LEVEL ALREADY?

At 20, the world’s third most expensive player will only get better – and that’s a mouthwatering prospect for Barcelona.

Whilst the former Borussia Dortmund man is still finding his feet following a long lay-off with a hamstring injury, we saw glimpses on Thursday, in the Copa del Rey against Celta Vigo, that it won’t take the attacker a great deal of time to get fully back into his stride.

Three substitute appearances on the bounce have helped him settle back in to the La Liga leaders’ line-up and that 32-minute cameo just a couple of days ago lit-up the Camp Nou in the 5-0 second leg cup romp.

Late on, from a corner, Dembele put the ball on a plate for Ivan Rakitic to head home – showcasing his ability to deliver via his right foot, as well as his favoured left. Generally, he was a towering presence, down the right flank in particular, dribbling the ball at pace, winning five out of six individual duels and constantly looking for a killer pass.

Having recovered from a slight niggle it will be interesting to see whether Ernesto Valverde decides to give the France international his first start in a Barca jersey since September or bring his freshness on from the bench as Sergio Busquets looks like one man being likely to return to the midfield for more steal.

Either way, Dembele seems to have quickly got up to speed with the pace of the Spanish top flight, and from here, we should really start seeing the best of him.

Barcelona's French forward Ousmane Dembele (C) vies with Celta Vigo's Spanish defender Sergi Gomez during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) round of 16 second leg football match FC Barcelona vs RC Celta de Vigo at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on January 11, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

Dembele could start on Sunday evening.

CAN BARCELONA FIX WOEFUL RECORD AT THE ANOETA?

Quite remarkably, Real Sociedad have won five out of their past seven league meetings with Barcelona at the Anoeta Stadium.

You wouldn’t go quite as far to say the Basque country side are a bogey team for the Catalan club, but certainly, in San Sebastian, Sociedad hold a hoodoo over the visitors.

In fact, Barcelona’s last La Liga win in the north of Spain came in 2007.

Perhaps, over a decade on, the tables are about to turn though with Barcelona being in blistering form and Eusebio Sacristan’s men enjoying a steady, if not spectacular campaign in mid-table.

PLAYERS PLAYING FOR THEIR PLACES

With Philippe Coutinho expected to be fit in a couple of weeks following his mega-money switch from Liverpool, the brilliant Brazilian is all set to be catapulted straight into the Blaugrana first XI midfield – which means one of Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta and Paulinho are likely to come under pressure for a spot in the side.

The 25-year-old has been billed as the heir to club captain Iniesta’s throne, and while that may be a bit premature given the Spaniard is still influencing games, it seems like a natural transition between the two that could happen sooner rather than later.

While this fixture comes too soon for new signing Yerry Mina, who is expected to make his debut on Thursday during the first leg quarter-final Copa del Rey clash with city rivals Espanyol, the likes of Samuel Umtiti, when fit again, will have to battle it out for a centre-back position upon his return.

Competition at right full-back is healthy and Thomas Vermaelen is performing well, so there may well be a dual for one central defensive berth – especially if stalwart Javier Mascherano completes his switch to China during the transfer window.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 13: New FC Barcelona player Yerry Mina is unveiling at Nou Camp on January 13, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. The Colombian player signed from Palmerias, has agreed a deal with the Catalan club until 2022 season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

New signing Yerry Mina was presented at the Camp Nou on Saturday.

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