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Footballer Lionel Messi investigated for tax fraud in Spain

The 25-year-old Argentina forward and his father, Jorge Horacio, are suspected of filing fraudulent tax returns for 2007-09, officials say.

The World Player of the Year expressed his surprise, denying the allegation.

His Barcelona net salary is said to be some 16m euros a year, making him one of the world's highest-paid athletes, accordingtoBBC.

He has also signed a number of multimillion-dollar endorsements with major sponsors around the globe.

On Wednesday, a complaint signed by prosecutor Raquel Amado was filed at the courthouse in Gava - the affluent Barcelona district where Messi lives.

Judges at the courthouse must accept the complaint before the suspects can be charged, reports say.

In financial terms, 4m euros in the world of Lionel Messi is not a huge amount. According to Forbes, the Barcelona star currently earns more than 15m euros a year from his salary and prize money.

When you add in his earnings from sponsorship and the rights to his image, Forbes puts his total annual net income at more than 31m euros.

Messi is worshipped by Argentina and Barcelona football fans and admired all over the world for his ability on the pitch, and his humility off it. However the allegation the footballer and his father failed to declare millions of euros of income - while people in Spain, in general, pay more tax and often earn less, or don't have a job at all because of the economic crisis - is making headlines all over the Spanish media.

Messi and his father deny any wrongdoing, he still hasn't been charged and it could be a while until we know whether he will be because the legal system in Spain is notoriously slow moving. But despite all that, the scandal raises difficult questions, and the image of Lionel Messi could be damaged.

The player and his father are accused of three crimes of defrauding the state of taxes related to income from the use of his image.

They are suspected of using companies abroad - in Belize and Uruguay - to sell the rights to use the image.

The accusation is that with the help of firms based outside Spain, where he lives and plays club football, Messi and his father avoided paying more than 4m euros in tax.

 

If convicted, Messi could face up to six years in prison and a large fine, according to Spain's EFE news agency.

Responding to the allegations, Messi expressed his surprise, saying he had only learned about the investigation against him through the media.

He wrote on his Facebook page: "We have never committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advices of our tax consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation."

Argentina's media also appeared puzzled by Wednesday's development, with the Clarin newspaper describing it as "unexpected news".

Barcelona FC have not commented on the allegations.

The investigation comes as the Spanish authorities step up their efforts to clamp down on tax fraud, as the government tries to balance its budget during a continuing economic crisis, the BBC's Tom Burridge in Madrid reports.

Nadal Surges to Record 8th French Open Title

Rafael Nadal on Sunday became the first man in history to capture the same Grand Slam title eight times, cruising to a straight-sets win over fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the French Open final, according to the Voice of Russia.

 Nadal wrapped up his 12th major with a crosscourt passing shot to cap a routine 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win over his 31-year-old opponent in two hours and 17 minutes.

 Having cemented his status as the undisputed king of clay, Nadal collapsed onto his back and brought his hands to his face before springing back up with the energy of a man barely stretched by his opponent and embracing Ferrer at the net.

 It continued Nadal's stunning comeback from a seven-month injury layoff that ended in February, since when he has won 43 of 45 matches and taken seven singles titles.

 The victory takes Nadal, 27, clear of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, both of whom clinched seven Wimbledon titles.

 Ferrer, in his first-ever Grand Slam final, had looked to become the oldest major title winner since Andre Agassi won the 2003 Australian Open at the age of 32.

Sharapova defeats Azarenka in French Open semis

PARIS- Maria Sharapova of Russia will play in the French Open final on Sunday after the second seed defeated third-seeded Viktoria Azarenka of Belarus in the semis 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 on Thursday, according to ITAR TASS.

Sharapova will meet the winner of the second semi-final between first-seeded American Serena Williams and fifth-seeded Sara Errani of Italy.

The French Open Tennis Championship is the second Grand Slam tournament in the tennis calendar. It takes place on the clay courts of the Roland Garros stadium in Paris.

Sara Errani beats AgnieszkaRadwanska 6-4 7-6

Italian ace Sara Errani beat AgnieszkaRadwanska 6-4 7-6 at Roland Garros to make the semi-finals of the French Open.

Last year's finalist had served for the match at 5-4 but Radwanska won to love before the set went to a tie-break, which Errani took 8-6.

Her match against Radwanska was a contrast to the other quarter-final happening across Roland Garros, with guile and touch the order of the day rather than power.

It was tight all the way through but Errani was always the player forging ahead and she eventually saw out the win.

She will now play No 1 seed Serena Williams in the last four, the American surviving a scare from former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova to progress.

Williams took the first set easily 6-1 but the 2009 champion, who was unseeded in this tournament, dug deep to take the next 6-3.

Williams dropped serve for the first time in the tournament in the set, being broken three times, and she was again in trouble against her Russian opponent in the decider, trailing 0-2.

But she fought off two break points that would have seen her slip to 0-3 and won six of the last seven games to secure victory in a shade under two hours.

The victory saw Williams extend her winning streak to 29 matches as she aims to claim her first French Open title since 2002.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain admits Brazil goal a blur as dad sleeps through strike

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain admitted his dramatic equaliser for England against Brazil in the Maracana was still to register in the immediate aftermath of the 2-2 draw.

The Arsenal winger stepped off the substitutes' bench to draw Roy Hodgson's men level after Fred had put Brazil in front after dominating the opening half.

Wayne Rooney's deflected strike then gave England a shock lead with 11 minutes to go but Paulinho earned a 2-2 draw for the hosts with his volley soon after.

Asked about his goal, a fine low strike from 20 yards after a build-up involving Rooney and Frank Lampard, Oxlade-Chamberlain told ITV: "I can't really remember it to be honest!

"I think I played it to Lamps, he played it round the corner to Wazza, he set it and I just hit it."

While admitting his frustration at Brazil's equaliser, the teenager was pleased with the result on a prestigious occasion.

"The fact we did go 2-1 up, you always want to close out the game so in that sense we're disappointed," he said.

"Brazil are a top quality side and they tried to break us down but we kept our shape well.

"It's tough coming away in this heat, in a stadium like this and with their quality, it's a good result."

Oxlade-Chamberlain's strike evoked memories of England famous 2-0 victory at the Maracana in 1984, which featured his father Mark.

But the former England international admitted he missed the highlight of son Alex's career - because he fell asleep.

Chamberlain told Radio 5: "I was a bit gutted. I actually didn't see it. I had loads of texts saying it was a fantastic goal.

"I was dropping his mother off at the airport at 6am this morning and I fell asleep. I have it on tape and will watch it back."