Former Real Madrid defender Ricardo Carvalho handed 7-month sentence for tax fraud

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Ricardo Carvalho

Former Real Madrid defender Ricardo Carvalho became the latest in a series of football stars to be convicted on charges of tax fraud in Spain as he was handed a seven-month jail term, a court filing confirmed on Friday.

Sentences under two years for first time offenders in Spain are habitually suspended so the Portuguese defender, now playing in China for Shanghai SIPG, is likely to avoid prison.

Carvalho, 39, was also handed a €142,822 fine after being found guilty of a fraud totalling €545,981 on income derived from his image rights in 2011 and 2012, which he had already repaid as the court ratified an agreement between the player and Spanish prosecutors.

As with other high-profile cases involving footballers, the use of a shell company in the British Virgin Isles to which Carvalho had ceded his image rights was deemed illegal.

Barcelona duo Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano received 21-month and one-year suspended sentences respectively after being found guilty of tax fraud over their image rights in 2016.

However, five-time World Player of the Year Messi’s sentence was later replaced by a €252,000 fine.

Real’s all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo appeared in court for a preliminary hearing in July and could yet face trial over accusations he evaded €14.7 million worth of tax on his image rights between 2011 and 2014.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Diego Costa completes fairytale return to Atletico Madrid following Chelsea exile

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Costa is preparing for his second stint at Atleti.

Spain striker Diego Costa claimed he was coming home after completing his return to Atletico Madrid from Chelsea on Tuesday.

Both clubs finally reached an agreement for a reported initial €55 million deal on Thursday and the Brazilian-born striker has now completed his medical with the Spanish giants.

“I’m very happy to return home, I’ve always said it, Atletico is my home, I’m very, very happy,” he told the club’s website.

Costa can’t feature until January as his move was completed outside the transfer window.

However, Atletico said he will begin training immediately and is likely to be in the stands when Chelsea are the visitors for the first ever Champions League game at Atletico’s new Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday.

“The international forward signed his new contract after successfully passing the medical tests that he underwent in two phases: last Saturday and Monday,” Atletico said in a statement

“Starting tomorrow, he will join the team’s trainings, but he will not be registered until the next winter market opens on January 1st.”

Costa was Atletico’s top scorer as they won La Liga and reached the Champions League final in 2013/14 before moving to Chelsea where he won two Premier League titles in three seasons.

“I’m looking forward to start contributing. I’m going to give my all for the team, as I always try to do,” added Costa, who will wear the number 19 jersey.

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Man-marking Lionel Messi and four other talking points from the weekend's La Liga action

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Lionel Messi.

Barcelona continued their perfect start to the La Liga season on a weekend in which Spain’s unstable political situation was reflected in the stands.

Real Madrid got back to winning ways at Alaves, whilst Diego Costa watched on as Atletico Madrid’s impressive start to the campaign continued in a 2-0 win over Sevilla.

Here, AFP Sports looks at five talking points from the Spanish football weekend:

Man-marking Messi

By man-marking Lionel Messi, Girona won the battle but ultimately lost the war against Barcelona on Saturday night.

Barca ran out comfortable 3-0 winners despite Messi, who had scored 11 times in his last five games, being largely nullified by a man-marking job from Manchester City loanee Pablo Maffeo.

Maffeo admitted Messi had asked him if he belonged to City and what age the 20-year-old was as the two made small talk, but Barca boss Ernesto Valverde believes Messi admirably sacrificed his own involvement for the good of the team.

“The man-marking was clear and we had to find the place where to put Messi to move that player and to get the most out of the situation,” said Valverde.

“When you’re man-marked it can be uncomfortable, but it also has advantages, not for him, but for the team.”

Referendum reverberates

Barca’s victory was overshadowed by events off the field as sections of both sides’ support chanted in favour of Catalan independence just a week away from a referendum on the subject which has dominated the news agenda in Spain.

A huge flag saying “Welcome to the Catalan Republic” hung outside the Montilivi ground, 100 kilometres from Barcelona.

The Spanish government has declared the referendum called by pro-independence parties illegal and 14 Catalan regional officials were even arrested this week.

Barca defended the Catalan people’s right to a referendum in a strongly-worded statement on Wednesday, whilst a group of Espanyol fans called on their board to speak out against the Spanish government’s actions.

All eyes will be on Catalonia for the referendum next Sunday, October 1, including at the Camp Nou where Barca host Las Palmas with more fan demonstrations inevitable.

Costa fears nutty professor

Diego Costa finally jetted into Madrid to complete his drawn-out return to Atletico from Chelsea after spending the past three months in Brazil due to his dispute with Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.

Costa hasn’t always looked in prime condition in his social media posts as he enjoyed the excesses of his time off.

Atletico’s flamboyant fitness trainer Oscar ‘El Profe’ (the professor) Ortega is famous for drilling his players even more harshly than coach Diego Simeone.

“I don’t fear the scales, I fear El Profe’s training sessions.” said Costa on his arrival.

“He’ll get me in shape in a few days.”

Zidane’s shadow looms large

“I hope he doesn’t score,” said Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane at the prospect of facing his eldest son Enzo as the European champions travelled to Alaves on Saturday.

In the end, Zinedine didn’t need to worry as Enzo’s difficult spell since stepping out of the shadow of his father by leaving Madrid in the summer continued as he wasn’t even included in the Alaves squad.

Enzo, 22, has seen just 71 minutes of action this season in a side that has lost all six of their La Liga matches to date, scoring just one goal.

To top off a bad weekend for Zidane’s sons, goalkeeper Luca Zidane gave away a penalty and was sent off for Real’s reserve team Castilla in defeat at Navalcarnero.

Cash for questions

Relegated to Spanish football’s third tier last season, cash-strapped Mallorca are raising money by offering fans the chance to be journalists for the day.

For a fee of between 15 to 20 euros, supporters can take out their frustrations by questioning the club’s coach and man-of-the-match after every home game.

Coach Vicente Moreno enjoyed an easy ride as a 4-0 thrashing of Llagostera moved the islanders top of their regional division on Saturday.

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