• Details of Messi’s € 555 million ($ 671 million) four-season deal were released on Sunday, angering the club and sparking the promise of lawsuits.

AP, Madrid

PUBLISHED FEB 2. 2021, 10:57 pm IS

The leak of Lionel Messi’s multimillion-dollar deal has drawn attention to the high taxes paid by football players in Spain, prompting the league to raise concerns about the departure of their top stars. Details of Messi’s € 555 million ($ 671 million) four-season deal were released on Sunday by El Mundo newspaper, angering the club and sparking the promise of lawsuits.

The contract made headlines everywhere, and Spanish league president Javier Tebas took the opportunity on Monday to underscore Messi’s high level of tax. He noted that the tall Argentine had to pay around 270 million euros ($ 326 million) in taxes on his contract, almost half his value. Tebas said that in Italy, for example, a player with a similar contract would have to pay taxes of 135 million euros.

“We will have an exodus of talent to other countries,” Tebas wrote on Twitter. “The (league) is going to lose players who help generate 1.37% of the country’s GDP and more than 180,000 jobs.”

Tebas has long criticized the Spanish tax regulations for football players, stating that they put the league at a disadvantage in transfer negotiations. He has been pushing for the Spanish government to change some of their tax rules that may put some players off. The rules in Italy and France are considered less strict for players than in Spain.

Local tax authorities in Spain have prosecuted football stars for the past few years, accusing some of them of fraud as they have interpreted local laws, particularly in relation to image rights. The authorities have stepped up their monitoring of players’ tax returns and highlighted alleged irregularities.

Messi himself was convicted of tax fraud in Spain in 2017 and given a 21-month suspended sentence that resulted in a fine. Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar were also among the different players the authorities were targeting. Neymar moved to the French club Paris Saint-Germain and Ronaldo to the Italian team Juventus. José Mourinho was also examined while he was Real Madrid coach.

CONTRACT DETAILS

The details of Messi’s leaked contract included a loyalty clause and a bonus for signing an extension in 2017. El Mundo said Monday Messi needed to learn Catalan and had been asked to “make every effort to get into Catalan society integrate”. The Spanish daily also said Messi has asked to be released from the contract in case the Catalonia region becomes independent from Spain.

The 33-year-old Messi has been in Barcelona for almost two decades and has won more than 30 titles. He asked to leave the club last season and said he was not happy with the direction but his request was denied. He can leave for free at the end of this season.

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