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Carlo Ancelotti faces prison for tax evasion

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Carlo Ancelotti faces prison for tax evasion

The Madrid public prosecutor’s office is demanding a long prison sentence for Real coach Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian emphasizes his innocence – after he almost “coached” his progress in the Champions League on Wednesday evening.

The image of the gentleman of integrity is crumbling: Carlo Ancelotti is said to have evaded taxes.

Juan Medina / Reuters

Blue coat over a blue suit and only the most necessary gestures: Carlo Ancelotti appeared as usual on Wednesday evening at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. The Real Madrid coach watched a typical European Cup game for the Royals from the sidelines: their opponents RB Leipzig dominated the second leg of the round of 16, but Real still moved into the next round thanks to the 1-1 score (1-0 in the first leg).

However, there was such a lackluster version of Ancelotti’s team that the audience gave them a loud whistle at half-time – and there were many questions afterwards. For example, why luck always seems to be on Real Madrid’s side: The last of Leipzig’s many shots hit the crossbar in stoppage time.

Ancelotti admits he chose the wrong tactics

The guests were also annoyed by the apparently eternal referee bonus of the European Cup record winner: while the Germans had a regular goal denied in the first leg, the later Real goalscorer Vinícius was allowed to stay on the pitch at the Bernabéu despite an attack. Madrid fans wondered what Ancelotti was thinking by only sending one striker onto the pitch in a home game.

The Italian explained that he wanted to increase the pressing and control in the midfield – and admitted that the idea had failed: “I wouldn’t repeat this formation.” However, Ancelotti saw the problem more fundamentally: “It is part of the history of this team that we are not able to manage a lead.” To prove this point, he went all the way back to 2015, when a 2-0 away win against Schalke 04 was followed by a wild 3-4 at home.

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Did he think of exactly this match because Ancelotti had already been confronted with the year 2015 at the beginning of the day? During his first time as Real coach, he is said to have evaded so many taxes that the Madrid public prosecutor’s office requested a prison sentence of four years and nine months against him on Wednesday. The most successful coach in Champions League history – two titles each with AC Milan and with Real – and the only coach with championships in all five major leagues is said to have smuggled exactly 383,361 euros for 2014 and in particular 675,718 euros for 2015 to the tax authorities.

You too, Carletto? In the past decade, Spain’s tax office has already taken after world stars such as Lionel Messi (evaded around 4 million euros, sentenced to 21 months in prison on probation), Cristiano Ronaldo (15 million euros, two years on probation after a settlement with the public prosecutor’s office) and the pop singer Shakira (14.5 million, three years probation after settlement) taken. Her former partner Gerard Piqué, who was acquitted in the final instance, and Real’s Luka Modric, who was given eight months’ probation, were among the dozens of other footballing greats in the investigators’ sights. José Mourinho, who had to pay a fine of 5.3 million euros and received 12 months’ probation, was also prosecuted, one of Ancelotti’s coaching predecessors in Madrid.

However, unlike his Portuguese colleague with a documented villain image, Ancelotti has so far been considered a master at staying out of trouble. During his almost 30-year career as a head coach, he worked for such powerful, controversial and sometimes notoriously busy men with judicial conflicts as Silvio Berlusconi (Milan), Roman Abramowitsch (Chelsea), Nasser al-Khelaifi (Paris Saint-Germain) and Florentino Pérez, the boss at Real Madrid. But personally he always remained unsullied. The farmer’s son from Emilia-Romagna was always considered a gentleman of integrity.

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After the game ended on Wednesday, he tried to preserve that reputation as best he could. “I am convinced that I am innocent,” he told the TV channel Movistar. In the press conference he added: “This is not the most appropriate place to talk about it. It’s about an old story that doesn’t affect me in any way. Hopefully it can be resolved soon, I’m completely relaxed about it. My only problem is that my team needs to play better.”

It’s about the income from Ancelotti’s image rights

The public prosecutor’s office takes it less lightly. According to her, during his first time in Madrid, Ancelotti deliberately set up a “complex” and “confused” network of fake companies in order to “evade taxation of the income from his image rights”. When he took office in the summer of 2013, he transferred this to Vapia Limited, based in the Virgin Islands, for a period of ten years and for a fee of 25 million euros. A day later, the company appointed him as authorized representative to exercise the rights. The contract with the company was later reduced to a term of three years and a price of one million euros. In the agreement with Real Madrid about the 50:50 division of his image rights, he then named the London-based company Vapia LLP as the rights holder.

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During the investigation, Ancelotti admitted the misconduct in 2014 and submitted the corresponding punishment to the public prosecutor’s office. He denied it for 2015 because he did not meet the minimum stay of 183 days for taxation in Spain due to his dismissal in May. The investigating judge followed his account, but the public prosecutor successfully lodged an objection. She believes she can prove that Ancelotti – who only took his next job at Bayern a year later – continued to live in Madrid for the rest of 2015.

As he emphasized on Wednesday, Ancelotti also wants to defend his version in the trial, which has not yet been scheduled: “Let’s see what the judge decides.” The strategy is risky because refusing to settle could land him in prison. But there is also the chance of a happy ending, as one of his former Real professionals recently achieved. Current Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso was acquitted of tax evasion charges in October.

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