Alexis Sanchez has been given a 16-month suspended prison sentence for tax evasion. The fraud took place during his time in Barcelona, when the Chilean footballer reportedly avoided paying up to 1 million euros (£886,000) in taxes.
In order to avoid jail, the player has reached an agreement with the Spanish Attorney General, whereby he has to pay back the entire sum, plus a fine of £525,000.
Sanchez was first suspected of wrong-doing in 2016, while he was still playing for Arsenal. At the time his agent denied the accusations, stating “Alexis Sanchez has fully obeyed the laws imposed by the countries where he has resided.”
The latest news comes just weeks after completing his big money move from Arsenal to Manchester United, with the £350,000 a week deal Sanchez signed with Manchester United said to have made him the highest paid player in the Premier League.
This is by no means the first case of a footballer being accused of tax evasion. In January for example, Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder, Luka Modric paid Spanish courts a similar amount to that which Sanchez will be made to.
In recent years, the game’s best players have been under fire for underpayment of tax, with Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi all making the headlines in recent years for similar offences to Sanchez.
It is not only the players who have been getting in on the act between 2011 and 2012, the current Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was also accused of not paying nearly £3 million in tax during his time at Real Madrid. It is no coincidence, that the above manger and players were all tried by courts in Spain.
In an effort to attract more foreign players to the Spanish leader, a new tax-exemption scheme was passed in the country in 2005 and since coined the ‘Beckham Law’ after having been first utilized by David Beckham. During his time at Real Madrid, the English midfielder enjoyed a tax ceiling of 24 percent, around half of what Spanish nationals had to pay on six-figure-plus incomes.
While the loophole was scrapped in 2010 for salaries of over £600,000 and tax inspectors are becoming increasingly more vigilant. It seems both football players and managers will continue to try to deceive the state in the hope of earning more money. Seemingly footballers are not content with earning hundreds of thousands of pound a week.
Alexis Sanchez is not the first to use illegal means in the hope of a bigger payday and certainly won’t be the last.
While the apparent greed of these millionaire footballers seems a world away from the lives of the average fan, such is the popularity of sport that supporters will continue to pay their hard earned money to watch them play every week. Unfortunately, tax evasion has become commonplace in the money-dominated world that is football in the 21st century, with footballers like Alexis Sanchez seemingly getting away with it, with little more than a slap on the wrist.