For a long time, Barcelona and Real Madrid have been the world’s premier clubs. At the top of the tree. Winning everything, with style. The clubs no one wanted to face, but everyone wanted to join.
But what is rarely mentioned is the dark side of both clubs, and how they have both stretched laws and regulations to get to where they are. Some will say cheated. Other’s will say loopholes. Some is proven, other just speculation.
So what is the dark side of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s success?
Accusations of state funding / assistance
For a long time, there has been accusations that Real Madrid and Barcelona have had questionable help from the state. Whether it is the national Spanish government, or their local City or Catalonian officials.
Accusations have been thrown at Real Madrid about outside intervention since the 1940s where it has been reported that opposing players and officials were often threatened and intimidated by police to ensure they did not beat Madrid. During the same period, it is not too hard to find information reporting links between Real Madrid and Spanish Dictator General Franco.
At the same time, there are also plenty of reports that Barcelona received a lot of support from the Catalonian Government, who often saw Barcelona as much more than a football club, but a tool to use against the national government. Success for Barcelona over Real Madrid was seen as success for Catalonia over Spain.
Records of much money and ‘assistance’ these two sides actually received from the Franco / Catalonian regimes has probably long since disappeared.
Fast forward 60-odd years and not much has changed.
In 2013 Barcelona and Real Madrid, as well as Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna were investigated by the European Commission due to public funding issues creating giving them an unfair competitive advantage.
“Since 1990: Possible privileges regarding corporate taxation of Real Madrid CF, Barcelona CF, Athletic Club Bilbao, and Club Atletico Osasuna – These four clubs are exempted from the general obligation for professional football clubs to convert into sport limited companies. The effect of this exemption is that these clubs enjoy a preferential corporate tax rate of 25 per cent instead of 30 per cent applicable to sport limited companies.”
They basically got tax relief by not becoming sport limited companies, even though they have an obligation to do so. Fair? I think not.
On top of this, Real Madrid and the City of Madrid have also been investigated for a “very advantageous real property swap.”
In 2003, Real Madrid sold their training ground to the City of Madrid for €22.7 million. Just 5 years earlier in 1998, the land had been valued at €595,000. Even London land price rises, this is unbelievable.
At the time, Real Madrid were in crippling debt. They were coming to the end of their Galactico project and were struggling to pay their bills. Did the City of Madrid use public funds to bail out their crown jewel of a football club?
Most recently, it has come out that a Spanish bank has underwritten the debt owed by Real Madrid to Tottenham in the Gareth Bale deal. The controversy here is that the bank was recently bailed out by the EU. Have the EU inadvertently assisted in the funding of a football club transfer? Who knows, but there are calls for it to be ivnestigated.
Whether the speculation is true or not, there is no smoke without fire.
‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us.’
Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano, Neymar.
All 3 recently have been investigated for tax evasion.
Mascherano has been sentenced to jail for 1 year after admitting two counts of fraud totaling just over €1.5million. He will likely to a deal to stay out of jail but pay a hefty fine.
A plane and a yacht are amongst £32.5m assets frozen by the Brazilian authorities as they investigate a £10.5m tax fraud by the Brazilian between 2011 and 2013, including funds paid to Neymar and his father by Barcelona as part of his transfer.
The judge in the case accused the 23-year-old of “omitting sources of income from abroad”. Barcelona Football Club was cited as the source of unreported money.
And then we come to Lionel Messi. In a case that has been rumbling on for a while, Messi seems to have done everything possible to avoid liability in a €4.1 million tax fraud case, including trying to pass blame on to his father.
Most recently, the Barcelona public prosecutors involved in the case requested that Messi be cleared of all charges, quell surprise.
They announced that they would however be seeking an 18-month prison sentence for his father for allegedly defrauding Spain’s tax office. The judge in charge of the case rejected this request, and the Spanish State Legal Service called for Messi to be tried alongside his father on tax fraud charges.
This is a clear example of the Barcelona courts attempting to help Messi get off with fraud.
As investigations rumble on, it will not be a surprise if more Barcelona are embroiled in tax evasion cases. And if they are doing it in Barcelona, they are probably also doing it in Madrid.
One of the more controversial darks sides of Real Madrid & Barcelona.
Eufemiano Fuentes is a Spanish doctor heavily implicated in the Operación Puerto doping case. Whilst the case mainly focused on the world of cycling, other sports were also implicated.
As of February last year, a Barcelona laboratory still holds 211 bags of blood and plasma which they are refusing to release to authorities. Madrid’s Provincial Court are set to announce (or may have already announced) the destruction of these bags. A Barcelona lab and a Real Madrid court involved in the cover up of bags of blood belonging to unnamed athletes???
It has been accused by some who were involved that they saw “well-known footballers” from La Liga visit the offices of Dr Fuentes. Now this could just be a normal visit. Fuentes was a doctor as well as a doping doctor.
But the rumours will not go away. In December 2010, an inmate claimed Fuentes had told him, “If I would talk, the Spanish football team would be stripped of the 2010 World Cup.” Fuentes has denied speaking to said inmate.
Fuentes himself has offered to identify the 211 bags of unnamed blood, but was told (or encouraged) by Judge Julia Santamaria that he was under no obligations to name any other athletes others than the cyclists implicated.
The issue is Spain has amongst the weakest anti-doping laws in Europe. Pretty much non-existent. To such an extent that Fuentes had to be charged under public health laws.
Cyclists got away with it for a long time, then we had the US Postal / Armstrong case. How long until we have the equivalent in football and a big side is found of guilty of running ‘the most successful doping programme sport has seen’.
Barcelona were recently banned for it. Real Madrid (And Atletico) are facing bans for it. Signing players from outside the EU under the age of 18.
La Masia is often put up as an example of how a football academy should run. Barcelona claim (and it formed part of their defence) that La Masia “forms people before athletes.” But it is also a centre of illegal activity.
Over the years, countless under 18s have been signed from abroad and gone through the academy. One was Lionel Messi who joined from Argentina at the age of 14 on ‘medical grounds’.
On the face of it, Barcelona & Madrid are just using their network of scouts and globalisation of football to sign the world’s best young talents. But in reality, it is child trafficking.
The NSPCC defines child trafficking as:
“Children are recruited, moved or transported over international borders to be exploited, forced to work or sold.“
Real Madrid and Barcelona sign children from foreign lands, to play them in games (work), even if they do not want to. They exploit these young children to ensure that they have the best young talent. It is clearly illegal, immoral and stronger sanctions than just transfer bans should be implemented.
So often they are held up as great clubs. But clearly Barcelona and Real Madrid are experts in the dark arts. Using every thing they can to be a success, no matter if it break the law.
It is an utter disgrace. And we have not even looked at how Bayern Munich have risen to the top yet.
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