The decision of a Spanish court to hand a jail sentence to Lionel Messi for a tax fraud has sent shock waves across the globe. The sentencing adds to the misery of the Argentina and Barcelona superstar after the recent loss to Chile in Copa America Centenario finals. While it remains to be seen if he will serve his sentence in jail, it is definitely a sad day in the glorious career of the player.
However, Messi is not the first footballer to come under the scanner of the authorities for the wrong reasons with a number of them being handed a sentence for their offences.
#1 Diego Maradona
One of the greatest footballers of all times, Diego Maradona has not been a stranger to controversy. His addiction to drugs and alcohol often made him subject to front page news for the wrong reasons. He was also suspected of having smuggled heinous amounts of drugs and having ties with the notorious Naples Mafia. However, the diminutive magician did not amend his ways and was handed a suspended sentence in 1994 for shooting at journalists with an air rifle.
The journalists who were waiting outside his home Buenos Aires were greeted with gunshots by an angered Maradona which resulted in at least 4 of them being injured.
#2 Tony Adams
The former Arsenal man was a rock-solid defender who helped his side win a number of accolades during his playing time. He had already made a mark for the Gunners and was touted to be one of the best defenders in England when the incident took place in 1990.
However, his trouble with Alcohol was well documented amongst the English media and all hell broke loose when he crashed his Ford Sierra into a wall in Rayleigh in 1990. When breathalysed, his blood alcohol level was found to be 4 times over the legal drink-driving limit.
He was sentenced to a jail term of 4 months in December of 1990 by a Southend Crown Court. He returned to the Arsenal set-up within 2 months after being freed and continued to play a vital part in his team success until his retirement. Adams has turned over a new leaf and is now a leading figure in the fight against drug addiction and alcoholism worldwide.
#3 Joey Barton
The Merseyside-born midfielder has been a fiery character on and off the pitch. He was sentenced to six months in prison by Liverpool Crown Court after being found guilty of assault in Liverpool. Barton was at that time playing for Newcastle and had gotten into a heated argument with a group of teenagers which led to the incident.
The midfielder had already had a drink too many and did not refrain from throwing a number of punches at the teenager, which left him with a broken tooth. This was less than a year after being suspended by his previous employers Manchester City for physically assaulting Ousmane Dabo in training.
He was released after serving less than 3 months in jail, a move which drew a lot of criticism from all quarters. However, like Tony Adams, Barton has straightened himself off the pitch, working with several agencies to help youngsters recover from alcoholism and drug abuse.
#4 Ched Evans
The case of Ched Evans has been well documented by media worldwide. He was charged on account of raping a 19-year-old in 2012 and was sentenced to 5 years in prison by Caernarfon Crown Court. The former Sheffield United striker, who has maintained his innocence ever since the case came into the limelight was released after serving two and half years in prison.
The player submitted fresh evidence related to the case to Criminal Cases Review Commission, which on considering the evidence provided quashed the conviction ordered a retrial of the case. The retrial is set to begin on 4th October 2016.
The forward has been linked to a number of clubs since his release. However, none of them were able to sign him due to protest from fans, sponsors or management. He recently signed his first contract since being released with League One club Chesterfield on 20th June 2016 .
#5 Adam Johnson
Former Manchester City star Adam Johnson was sentenced to 6 years in prison on 24th March 2016 on account of grooming and engaging in illegal activities with a girl aged 15. After the player pleaded guilty to the mentioned charges, Judge Jonathan Rose told him that he had abused a position of trust and had caused his victim severe psychological damage. The court Psychiatrist even went on to claim that he found the 28-year-old to be “socially and psychologically immature”.
Footballers can often be provided demigod status by the fans and it is with great responsibility that they must handle it. However, Johnson, buoyed by his success as a footballer, crossed the line and is currently serving his 6-year sentence at HM Prison Moorland near Doncaster.