Surprise, surprise: Messi's taxes and Fernando Torres

Posted by Francesc Tomas

El Periodico informs that Lionel Messi has been accused of dodging tax payments of around four million euros by the Catalan authorities. Unsurprisingly, given the player's impact on a global scale, the news seem to have hit every corner of the world.

La Pulga's representatives were quick to react: "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."

While I am obviously no expert on the matter, I find it extremely hard to believe that someone who earns a reported 31 million euros a year would knowingly decide to risk ruining his humble, immaculate image to save such a minuscule amount of money -- when compared to his overall worth, of course.

Unfortunately, everyone seems to be guilty until proven innocent in the world we live in these days. I would be pleasantly surprised if Barcelona haters didn't use these allegations as ongoing ammunition against the four-times (and counting) Ballon d'Or winner.

Oh well. Not much can be done at this stage so I guess we will all have to wait and see what happens next. Looking forward to the authorities doing their job properly and getting to the bottom of this case, whatever the outcome.

Fernando Torres linked to Barca

The Catalan media reports that Barcelona are interested in signing Fernando Torres as an alternative striker who could replace Messi and new-comer Neymar whenever any of the two forwards were unavailable or needed time to rest for upcoming games.

While the Spanish international's career has been remarkable, having scored 206 goals in 516 professional appearances in La Liga and the EPL, I truly don't see how signing El Nino would be a priority for the Barcelona sporting directors at this stage. Sure, the former Liverpool star has scored a respectable 22 goals under (mostly) Rafa Benitez at Chelsea this season but, honestly, I feel his arrival would not improve the overall quality of the Blaugrana attack in a significant manner.

Having recently completed the signing of the most promising attacking prospect in world football for a reported 57 million euros, it honestly makes no financial sense for the club to invest any further in reinforcing their attacking line at this point.

Tito Vilanova seems to be counting on Alexis Sanchez, Pedro Rodriguez and Cristian Tello for next season, but the futures of unsettled David Villa, Barcelona B top-goalscorer Gerard Deulofeu and returning-from-loan Bojan Krkic, Isaac Cuenca and Ibrahim Afellay could certainly all be far away from the Camp Nou this season.

Personally, I would loan the Segunda Division Pichichi to a top-flight team who could grant him enough playing time to continue his development at the highest level. With teams such as Borussia Dortmund, Real Sociedad and Sevilla having already shown an interest in his loaning his services, I feel Deulofeu should be brave enough and accept to take the next, crucial step in his career by gathering experience elsewhere -- a decision which proved successful for Cesc Fabregas, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique in the recent past.

In contrast, and however harsh this may sound, I believe it is now time for the rest of the above-mentioned players (including crowd-favourite Villa) to leave the Camp Nou for good this summer. Sandro Rosell and his executive board should now focus on ensuring enough money is raised by selling attackers who, realistically, wouldn't enjoy much playing time at all considering the level of the competition within the Blaugrana attack.

Any additional funds would be desperately welcome so that the Catalan giants have a better chance of signing an experienced centre-back who is capable of partnering with Pique in the immediate future. Considering the severity of the Champions League semifinal aggregate defeat against Bayern, it would simply be unacceptable for Barcelona to start yet another season without a player who could comfortably take the leading role within the team's back-line.

Regular readers of this column will know that, despite the enormous economic difficulties that attempting the signing of Thiago Silva entails, I still feel the club should seriously try to bring the Brazilian international to the Camp Nou. Proven defenders Daniel Agger and Jeremy Matthieu are the latest additions to the Barcelona-rumour circus but, personally, I believe Barcelona should do anything within their power to invest in bringing the best possible reinforcement, not just cheaper alternatives.

The addition of Torres (or any other so-called Plan B striker, for that matter) is simply not a major priority at this moment in time. If Barcelona are serious about challenging for all major trophies next season, an efficient, confident centre-back must be signed as a matter of urgency.

First things first, Mr Rosell.

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