• Premier League

Messi backed by Barcelona president

ESPN staff
June 13, 2013
Barcelona president convinced of Messi's innocence

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has told Lionel Messi he has the club's full backing after claims that he and his father defrauded the Spanish state of over €4 million in taxes.

On Wednesday, the Catalan media reported that tax authorities in Barcelona were to bring a case against Messi and his father over unpaid taxes in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

But Messi, 25, released a statement on his official Facebook page denying any wrongdoing, while Jorge Messi, the player's father told AS: "This is all a mistake," he said. "It should have been spoken about with the accountants and legal people, who will clear it up."

Rosell told a press conference on Thursday afternoon that he is also in no doubt about Messi's innocence.

He said: "Messi's family is calm. They have all of our support. I do not doubt their innocence."

Rosell also defended Barca's conduct towards defender Eric Abidal who has left the club this summer after six seasons at the Nou Camp.

Abidal returned to the team in April after recovering from a liver transplant and was keen to continue his career with the Spanish champions. However,upon the expiry of his contract he was not offered an extension.

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

"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."

One defender Barca have been linked with is Paris Saint-Germain's Thiago Silva, but Rosell expressed doubts about the validity of those links because of the player's high salary.

"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 said.

Meanwhile, Thiago Alcantara has been linked with a move away from the club due to speculation about a buy-out clause in his contract falling from €90m to €18m because he failed to complete 60% of the club's games. However, Rosell dismissed this idea, saying: "It's the other way round, if he had played the necessary number of games, the clause would have risen from €18m 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."

David Villa is another player whose future is in doubt, with Tottenham reportedly keen. Rosell, though, played down reports but didn't rule out a departure.

He said: "Until anything otherwise is said, he is still a Barcelona player."

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