Rosell: Messi is innocent

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell insists he is convinced of Lionel Messi's innocence following reports of tax fraud.

Last Updated: 13/06/13 at 18:36 Post Comment

Sandro Rosell: Does not doubt Messi's innocence

Sandro Rosell: Does not doubt Messi's innocence

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell insists he is convinced of Lionel Messi's innocence following reports the Spanish tax authorities are investigating allegations he and his father defrauded the state of four million euros (£3.4million).

Messi released a statement on Wednesday denying any wrongdoing after allegations the four-time reigning World Player of the Year and his father, Jorge Horacio, were suspected of filing fraudulent tax returns between 2007 and 2009.

Rosell told a press conference on Thursday afternoon: "Messi's family is calm. They have all of our support. I do not doubt their innocence."

The 25-year-old Argentinian, currently on international duty in South America, yesterday revealed he was "surprised" by the news.

In a statement on his official Facebook page, he wrote: "We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities.

"We are surprised about the news, because we have never committed any infringement.

"We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advice of our tax consultants, who will take care of clarifying this situation."

Messi arrived at the Nou Camp as a 13-year-old in 2000, made his first-team debut three years later and has gone on to establish himself as one of football's best ever players.

He has won six Primera Division titles, three Champions League crowns and two FIFA Club World Cups with the Catalan giants, and in 2012 netted a record 86 goals for club and country.

Rosell also defended the way the club have acted towards Eric Abidal, who has left Barcelona after he was not offered a new contract.

The French defender returned to action in April after recovering from a liver transplant he underwent to treat cancer, and affirmed his interest in continuing to play for Barca.

"We have treated him like a footballer, not someone who is ill, because that's what he asked of us," said Rosell.

"I think the club have treated him in an excellent manner and been honest with him, when he was a footballer and when he was ill."

Rosell reiterated that Tito Vilanova, who has also battled cancer, would stay on as the club's coach next season and said there was every chance he could be offered a new contract in 2014 "if the season goes as we expect it to".

He said that the coach would continue to make trips to New York for check-ups, but added: "No doctor has told me he is not well enough to continue."

Looking ahead to this summer's transfer activity, Rosell expressed doubts about the possibility of signing Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva.

He said: "He is a very difficult player to sign, he earns a lot of money and we need to be careful with our wage structure".

Rosell believes midfielder Thiago Alcantara will remain at Barca, and sought to clear up a misunderstanding about his buy-out clause.

It had been reported that Alcantara's buy-out clause fell from 90million euros (£76.5m) to 18m euros (£15.3m) because he did not play 60 per cent of the club's games last season, but Rosell said: "It's the other way round, if he had played the necessary number of games, the clause would have risen from 18m euros to 90m.

"I understand that he wants to play more games, but I'd like him to stay on at the club and become as important as Xavi, (Andres) Iniesta and Sergio Busquets."

On David Villa, who is expected to leave the club in the summer, he said: "Until anything otherwise is said, he is still a Barcelona player."

He added that while the club are searching for a replacement for Victor Valdes, he expects the goalkeeper to stay at the club until his contract expires in 2014.

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas, meanwhile, has described speculation linking him with a move away from the Nou Camp as "absurd".

Fabregas has been in and out of the Barca first team following his return to the Catalan club from Arsenal in 2011 and that has led to reports that several Barclays Premier League clubs might try and tempt the Spain international back to England this summer.

However, the 26-year-old told Marca: "I've always said that I'm happy at Barca. Whoever says that I'm leaving doesn't know me and has never spoken with me.

"Nor with my agent, because he knows that I don't want him to talk with other people about me. I'm very private and I don't even talk about these things with my family.

"If someone says anything that isn't that I want to play at Barca, it's completely absurd."

"We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advice of our tax consultants, who will take care of clarifying this situation."

Messi arrived at the Nou Camp as a 13-year-old in 2000, made his first-team debut three years later and has gone on to establish himself as one of football's best ever players.

He has won six Primera Division titles, three Champions League crowns and two FIFA Club World Cups with the Catalan giants, and in 2012 netted a record 86 goals for club and country.


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