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Barcelona's Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi (C) arrives to court with his father Jorge Horacio Messi (3rd R) to stand trial for tax fraud in Barcelona, Spain, June 2, 2016.  REUTERS/Albert Gea

A few bypassers applauded the arrival of the Argentina and FC Barcelona player while several people shouted at him, but in contrast to when he appeared at a local court in 2013 to give evidence, there were no Barcelona supporters present.

Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, entered the court immediately without speaking to reporters.

The trial began on Tuesday although Messi missed the first and second day, which he was not obliged to attend, citing a back injury sustained in Argentina’s international friendly with Honduras last Friday.

Lionel and Jorge Horacio Messi are accused by the Spanish tax office of defrauding the government of 4.2 million euros ($4.7 million) between 2007 and 2009.

They could face jail terms of up to 22 months if found guilty, although it is customary in Spain that offenders of non-violent crime with a sentence of under two years do not serve time in jail.

The case centres on the player’s image rights and a web of shell companies allegedly used to evade taxes on income from those rights.

Tuesday’s hearing showed that Spain’s tax office made 20 inspections of Messi during its three-year investigation.

According to the prosecutors’ office, revenue was hidden using shell companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Messi and his father paid five million euros to the tax authorities as a “corrective” measure after being formally investigated in June 2013.

Spain’s tax office has also begun investigating the finances of Messi’s Barcelona team-mates Neymar Jr, Javier Mascherano and Adriano.

Mascherano accepted a one-year prison sentence for tax evasion as part of a plea bargain in January, although is not expected to serve time in jail.

Messi moved to Barcelona from his birth place of Rosario, Argentina in 2000, becoming a Spanish citizen in 2005.

He is 10th on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s highest-earning athletes over the past decade, with an estimated income of $350 million.

Messi has scored 453 goals in 531 appearances for Barca in all competitions.

He has also won eight La Liga titles, four King’s Cups and four Champions League crowns with Barca, leading them to a league and cup double last season.

Messi is also captain of Argentina and will rejoin the team immediately after his court appearance to prepare for the Copa America in the USA, playing their first game against holders Chile on Jun. 7.

reuters.com

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘Made Deadline Day Phone Call’ To Man Utd Target Before Transfer Collapsed

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reportedly make a desperate last-ditch phone call to Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic on deadline day.

The Croatian was linked with a switch to Old Trafford during the summer as United searched for a replacement for Romelu Lukaku.

And Tuttosport report that Solskjaer made a personal effort to contact Mandzukic over a move, but failed in his approach.

The 33-year-old striker is said to have delayed his decision in order to see whether he had been included in Juve’s Champions League squad.

But he was not part of boss Maurizio Sarri’s plans, and Mandzukic – who was said to have offers on the table from PSG and Bayern, as well as United – now looks set for a move to Qatar.

Qatari side Al-Gharafa are the rumoured front runners for Mandzukic’s signature, with his agent allegedly due to land in Qatar on Monday to finalise transfer negotiations.

United failed to bring in any further attacking reinforcements following Lukaku’s departure, and have since also lost Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan as well.

The Red Devils have been linked with a move for Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson next summer, while Solskjaer ruled out a move for veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“If he [Ibrahimovic] was 28, not 38 next month, it would be a big difference,” Solskjaer said.

“He had a great time here and he is still doing well. He was unfortunate he got his injury here when he did.

“Who knows? He knows my number.

“He never rented my house but he was looking at it, and we can speak our native language. If he is serious I’ll always talk to Zlatan.”

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U.S. Official Says Drone And Missile Attack On Saudi Arabia Was Launched From Iran

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Saudi Arabia

The United States has identified the exact locations in Iran from which a combination of more than 20 drones and cruise missiles were launched against Saudi oil facilities over the weekend, a senior U.S. official told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin on Tuesday. The official said the locations are in southern Iran, at the northern end of the Persian Gulf.

Saudi Arabia’s air defenses have been aimed south for months, to protect against missile attacks launched by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, so they were useless against the missiles and drones coming in from the north, the official told Martin.

One of the missiles flew through Kuwait’s airspace and the U.S. is working with a number of other countries to analyze data on the attack, which could help make the case against Iran.

A U.S. team has been on the ground at the oil facilities and identified the specific types of drones and cruise missiles fired, Martin reported. The wreckage was moved to a facility outside the Saudi capital of Riyadh, where it will be used to make what one U.S. official called, “a very compelling forensic case” that Iran launched “a complex and coordinated attack” on Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the wreckage, the forensic case will include radar tracks reconstructed after the fact that show the cruise missiles and drones coming out of Iran.

U.S. officials have already blamed Iran for the attack, but President Trump has appeared this week to lower expectations of a U.S. military response. On Monday night, one day after tweeting that the U.S. was “locked and loaded” in response to the attack on Saudi Arabia, the president told supporters in New Mexico not to panic about oil supplies.

“Today, we got a lot of oil,” Mr. Trump said at his rally. “We got a lot of gas.”

“A few years ago, if we had a problem like you saw two days ago in the Middle East, we would’ve been in a panic,” the president added. “Although not if I were your president — we never panic.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump stopped short of blaming Iran for the attacks on two Saudi oil plants, but he said the country was likely responsible.

“We want to find definitively who did this,” he said. “It certainly would look to most like it was Iran.”

The president’s Secretaries of State, Defense and Energy have all blamed Tehran in tweets. A Saudi Arabian military spokesman said the weapons were Iranian, but was unclear on where the attack originated.

All options appear to be on the table when it comes to Mr. Trump’s response. At one point, the president practiced restraint, claiming, “I don’t want war with anybody, I’m somebody who would like not to have war.” But he also kept open the possibility of U.S. military action, and even suggested a lethal retaliatory strike would be a proportionate response.

Former CIA acting director Michael Morell said the U.S. may have little choice. “It’s not only Iran that’s under pressure here, they can put pressure back on us,” he said. “We have to deter them.”

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has requested a briefing for all House members on the attack on the Saudi facilities, and Democrats are urging caution on any next steps.

“I don’t think we need to be the protector of Saudi Arabia,” said Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia.

Mr. Trump has also announced that a team led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head to Saudi Arabia, and said the U.S. is talking to other countries in the region as he decides how to respond. United Nations inspectors have also traveled to Saudi Arabia to investigate, while the U.S. works on declassifying information to share publicly.

Iran continues to deny any involvement, and the nation’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out talks with the U.S. at any level.

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Manchester City Plunged Further Into Defensive Crisis As Club Confirm John Stones Is Out

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Man City

Manchester City have plunged deeper into a defensive crisis on Tuesday when John Stones was ruled out for up to six weeks with a muscle injury.

Pep Guardiola confirmed that Stones is to be sidelined for at least a month at his pre-match press conference for City’s Champions League opener at Shakhtar Donetsk.

City are already without Aymeric Laporte, who will only return from a knee ligament injury next year, and Stones’s absence means Nicolas Otamendi is Guardiola’s only fit senior central defender.

“Injured this morning,” Guardiola said, regarding Stones. “A month, four or five weeks, six weeks. [It is] a muscular problem.”

Fernandinho, naturally a midfielder, is expected to slot alongside Otamendi in the centre of City’s defence, while youngsters Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis will provide first-team cover until Stones returns.

“It’s a challenge and they will do it well because my players are the best,” Guardiola said, when asked whether Fernandinho was ready to fill in at the back.

“We play with ‘dinho, Eric or Taylor. I will create something. That is what it is. Football is not how you handle the good situations. It’s how you handle the bad ones.

“This team has done it in the past. When we won the last two seasons seven titles, nobody gave us anything. We won for ourselves and we are going to do it again.

“The perfect ideal situation does not exist, it’s how you approach these ones. I am ready for the challenge. I like it, I like to live this situation.”

Stones’s injury – sustained while passing the ball in a training session – comes days after he and Otamendi were widely criticised for their performances in a shock 3-2 defeat away to Norwich City.

Fernandinho was in contention to start in the centre of defence against Shakhtar regardless of Stones’ absence, but the injury still comes at an inopportune time for Guardiola.

A six-week layoff would leave Stones sidelined until the final week of October. City travel to title rivals Liverpool on the weekend of 9 November.

“Something people don’t know is the spirit, commitment,” Guardiola said. ”Everybody makes a step forward to solve the problem we have. With ‘dinho, Eric Garcia and Taylor from the academy, we are going to go for the next month.

“Sometimes these situations happen. It’s happened. What we’re not going to do is complain. We have to make 11 players on the pitch, make extra effort, and I like to prove myself. To find a solution for the team.

“It’s for the players as well to step forward and contribution to this problem we have. Two important central defenders we have in John and Aymer are injured for a long time.”

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