If Spain was viewed as a tax haven for footballers until recently, the current climate looks on course to change. Just look at the list of footballers that have been accused of tax evasion: Javier Mascherano, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Samuel Eto’o, Angel Di Maria and, recently, Alexis Sanchez and Cristiano Ronaldo. There have been reports on accusations even against JoseMourinho.
Just what is going on in Spain? It looks like the economically drowning authorities are groping for a plank to hold onto, financially speaking.
You couldn’t blame them also. When David Beckham transferred to Real Madrid, he was one of the first footballers to receive tax alleviations – having to pay only 25% instead of double that for an income of 600,000 euro and above. The whole plan was to attract football’s best talent to Spanish lands. This was back in 2003.
But in 2010, the Spanish authorities scrapped the ‘Beckham tax law’. With the financial crisis of 2008-09, one wonders whether one needs to look anywhere else to determine why they did that.
Now, seven years, later, we see a number of accusations aimed at those who benefited from the tax alleviations. It is no wonder that newspapers reported Messi wanted to leave Spain for England last summer, and that Ronaldo desires to leave too.
Both have been accused of not paying their tax for image rights sales. Just to give you a bit more details, the BBC reported earlier that Ronaldo had been accused of owing 14.7 million British pounds between 2011 and 2014 for an image rights sale done via a shell company he registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Imagine the conundrum Ronaldo is currently having–having been approached by an international firm, being Portuguese and a globally recognised name, that he would still have to pay his tax to the Spanish authorities.
The resolution of his case I leave to the lawyers. What matters here is how he will react.
Will he run away from Spain? As one of the world’s top two footballers, he has every right to.
But the ramifications of this, and the pressure from the Spanish taxmen, could be huge, not only for him but for European football. It could start a shift in football which would see Spanish clubs lose a valuable vantage point on the transfer market.
The current Spanish climate makes us wonder whether the stars of the world’s top two football clubs–Real Madrid and Barcelona–would migrate elsewhere, as if running away like hunted antelopes.
If this proves to be the case, it is all good news for the rest of European football. Spain’s top two clubs have dominated the European scene for almost 20 years now.
If this is case, it would be an ugly end to Spanish domination. It is unfortunate that such a period should end with a tax scandal.
One wonders who would fill the gap that is left behind. But the answer to that question is better left to time.
Ronaldo is currently in Russia with the Portugal national side for the Confederations Cup and is set to appear in court on July 31.
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