Explained | What is the latest scandal involving F.C. Barcelona?

Spanish football was rocked last month when it became public that Barcelona has paid millions of euros to possibly benefit from refereeing decisions for more than a decade.

Barcelona was paying a company that belonged to the vice president of the country’s refereeing committee.

The club has denied wrongdoing but is being widely criticised across Spain, and prosecutors on Friday formally accused the club of corruption.

Here’s a look at the latest scandal involving Barcelona, which surfaced as the club is still trying to recover from one of its worse financial crises and the departure of Lionel Messi.

What happened?

Prosecutors say Barcelona paid as much as €7.3 million ($7.7 million) from 2001-18 to the company of committee vice president José María Enríquez Negreira in amounts “not justified because they were not foreseen in the statutes of the club nor approved by its general assembly (of club members).”

The payments were allegedly made in exchange for technical reports on referees and youth players, though apparently in amounts above market prices.

Getting reports on referees is common practice and clubs can pay other companies or have them prepared internally, as Barcelona now does. But giving large amounts of money to the company of a person involved in the running of Spain’s referees for the reports is not a normal practice.

The payments were probed as part of a tax investigation into the company of Enríquez Negreira, a former referee who was on the Spanish Football Federation refereeing committee from 1994-2018, when the payments stopped. The committee is in charge, among other things, of choosing referees for each match.

There is so far no evidence that referees or game results were actually influenced during the period in which Barcelona made the payments.

Formal accusation

Prosecutors accused Barcelona of alleged corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of mercantile documentation.

The accusations are against Barcelona itself, Enríquez Negreira, former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and former Barcelona executives Óscar Grau and Albert Soler.

Prosecutors said there was enough evidence to believe that Rosell and Bartomeu, who ran Barcelona in consecutive terms from 2010-20, “reached a confidential, verbal agreement” with Enríquez Negreira, who, “in exchange for money, was to carry out acts tending to favor Barcelona Football Club in the decision-making process of referees in the games played by Barcelona, and in the results of the competitions.”

Barcelona paid Enríquez Negreira’s company during different club presidents, including from 2003-10 under the first term of current president Joan Laporta, who again took charge in 2021. Laporta, however, is not being accused by the prosecutors and has denied any wrongdoing.

What Barcelona says

The club has denied wrongdoing or conflict of interest. It has acknowledged the regular payments to Enríquez Negreira’s company but said they were for only technical reports, not to try to influence refereeing decisions.

Barcelona has yet to fully explain its relationship with Enríquez Negreira. The club said it hired an independent firm to carry out its own investigation and is expected to give a more detailed account of what happened when that is concluded.

President Laporta said, “Barça is innocent of the accusations made against it and is the victim of a campaign, that now involves everyone, to harm its honorability.”

Enríquez Negreira told Cadena SER radio he never favored Barcelona while assigning referees to matches, and his job was to only aid the club verbally about how players should conduct themselves before each referee.

Bartomeu also denied wrongdoing and told ABC newspaper Enríquez Negreira had “zero power over referees.”

Barcelona coach Xavi said the matter was not affecting his players. The team was eliminated from the Europa League but remained in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey and in the lead of the Spanish league.

The accusers

The Spanish league, the country’s football federation and most clubs expressed their concern and intent to take action against Barcelona. They said the matter was damaging the reputation of Spanish football and sports in general.

Spanish league president Javier Tebas said Laporta should resign if he can’t properly explain the payments.

“I think this is the worst moment in Spanish football,” Tebas told Movistar on Monday. “It’s embarrassing that we still don’t have a convincing explanation by Barcelona.”

Madrid called for an urgent board meeting on Sunday and expressed its “utmost concern regarding the gravity of the facts” involving Barcelona. It said it would side against the rival in the legal proceeding to defend its “legitimate rights” as an “affected party” in the matter.

The Spanish government’s top sports authority also said it planned to take action. José Manuel Franco, president of Spain’s sports council, said on Monday on channel Telecinco, the government will join the other accusing parties in the legal proceedings. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez weighed in on the case, saying the government was waiting for the matter to be clarified.

The Spanish federation noted that Enríquez Negreira left the committee after the new administration took over in 2018.

Spain’s referees came out to publicly distance themselves from the relationship between Barcelona and Enríquez Negreira. Many former referees who were active at the time Enríquez Negreira was their vice president said they never received any pressure from him or other officials.

What next for the club?

An investigating judge will decide whether the accusations filed by the prosecutors should lead to charges.

Sporting sanctions against Barcelona were not considered initially because the statute of limitations on the possible irregularities had expired, but if the club is eventually convicted, it could possibly lead to a ban from competitions.

There was no immediate timetable on the next steps by the courts.

Watch | Data Point | World Cup 2022 score: Qatar and FIFA 1, human rights 0

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European Golden Shoe 2021/22 standings

The 2021/22 European Golden Shoe race is over after a season in which the continent’s most prolific goalscorers were all vying to win one of football’s most prestigious individual awards.

Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski saw off the challenge of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to finish at the top of the European Golden Shoe rankings last season.

READ MORE: European Golden Shoe 2022/23: Current standings and past winners

Lewandowski scored an astonishing 41 league goals from 29 appearances, giving him 82 Golden Shoe points and the highest winning score since Ronaldo in 2014/15.

Manchester United star Ronaldo and Messi – who has moved from Barcelona to PSG – both entered the new campaign expecting to challenge again in the standings for the most goals in Europe.

READ MORE: Who will be the European Assists King for 2021/22?

Messi’s PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe and a fellow young star in Erling Haaland were also expected to be in the mix to top the Golden Shoe rankings and take the crown from Lewandowski.

Along with Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah started the season as the top Premier League candidates, though surprise winners have also emerged in the past.

This page was updated throughout the 2021/22 season with regular updates on the European Golden Shoe standings, and the final result can now be viewed below.


Robert Lewandowski has clinched back-to-back European Golden Shoe titles after another spectacular season.

The Bayern striker scored in his side’s last game of the Bundesliga campaign against Wolfsburg on May 14, with his future at the club looking uncertain amid transfer speculation.

Lewandowski therefore finished the league season with 35 goals to his name from 34 appearances, a total which saw him score the most goals in Europe for 2021/22.

Given the Bundesliga season is shorter than the other major divisions in Europe, Lewandowski finished before many of his rivals had completed their top-flight campaigns, but a huge lead meant his victory never looked in doubt.

Lewandowski secured European golden boot glory once more even though he fell slightly short of his historic 41-goal total last season.

He led the Golden Shoe race for most of the season, but while he was stable at the top, the chasing pack behind him was rotating regularly, right up until our final standings.

PSG sensation Kylian Mbappe, the Ligue 1 top scorer, ultimately claimed second place with 28 goals and 56 Golden Shoe points.

It was a remarkable year for the World Cup winner, who also had 18 assists in the top flight to tie Thomas Muller for the best creative total in Europe’s top-five leagues.

A hat-trick as PSG thrashed Metz 5-0 on the last day of the Ligue 1 season saw Mbappe leapfrog Karim Benzema and Ciro Immobile to finish as best of the rest behind Lewandowski.

It was the second-best goal total of his career, behind only the 33 he scored in 2018/19, and the attacker looks a likely winner of the Golden Shoe in the future.

Benzema (27 goals) recorded the best league goalscoring campaign that he has had in 13 seasons with Real Madrid, impressively beating the 24 goals he netted in 2015/16.

The France forward posted highest Primera Division total and was one of the most prominent challengers to Lewandowski in these standings for much of what was a sublime campaign.

Benzema may have taken second over Mbappe had he not had his schedule carefully managed by Carlo Ancelotti in the final weeks of the season after the domestic title was secured, with a Champions League final against Liverpool in mind.

Lazio forward Immobile, a former winner of this award, superbly scored 27 times in the league this season to top the charts in Serie A.

He has topped 20 goals in Serie A in five of his six seasons for Lazio and remains a prolific striker who consistently features in the Golden Shoe race.

Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder challenged Mbappe in Ligue 1 for much of the season and he finished with 25 goals to claim an impressive fifth-place finish in the Golden Shoe, boosted by a hat-trick against Brest in the penultimate game of the season.

Ohi Omoijuanfo, who played for Molde and Red Star Belgrade over the course of the campaign, came sixth and was the highest-placed finisher outside Europe’s fop-five leagues.

Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick and Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic finished level on 24 goals. Both of those players were fast starters this season which made them a permanent fixture on the leaderboard.

Completing the top 10 were the two payers who ultimately finished level in the Premier League golden boot race with 23 goals. They were Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, who was the leader for most of the campaign in England, and his Tottenham rival Son Heung-min.

Strikes on the last day of the EPL season for that duo meant outgoing Dortmund star Erling Haaland, who will be joining them in England with Man City next season, finished 11th after racking up 22 strikes despite an injury-hit season.

So Lewandowski once again finished top of the prestigious Golden Shoe standings and the major league seasons across Europe have now come to a close.

Lewandowski becomes the 10th player to win the Golden Shoe twice – a total only bettered by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who were unable to challenge this season.

After not producing a winner since 1972, the Bundesliga has now come out on top for two straight campaigns, and the stage is set for another intriguing battle in 2022/23.

2021/22 European Golden Shoe

Who are the previous European Golden Shoe winners?

Lionel Messi has won the most European Golden Shoe titles.

The PSG forward has triumphed on six occasions, most recently in 2018/19 for Barcelona.

Cristiano Ronaldo is his closest challenger with four career wins, though the Man Utd attacker has not come out on top since 2014/15 when he was at Real Madrid.

Nine players have two awards apiece, including Luis Suarez and Thierry Henry.

Messi holds the record for most goals and points in a season as well. He remarkably scored 50 goals in 2011/12, earning himself 100 points.

Ronaldo has come closest to breaking that, scoring 48 goals for 96 points when he last won the crown more than six years ago.

Argentina forward Messi is the only player in European Golden Shoe history to win the title three years in a row, doing so from 2016/17 until 2018/19.

Ronaldo, though, is one of only four players to have won the title with different clubs. The others are Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan and Mario Jardel.

Robert Lewandowski became the first Bundesliga winner since 1972 last season, with his 41 goals being the best tally for six seasons.

That came after Ciro Immobile won the 2019/20 European Golden Shoe, scoring 36 goals for Lazio in a tremendous Serie A season.

It was his first title, with the striker becoming the first Serie A player to have the most goals in Europe since Francesco Totti triumphed for Lazio‘s rivals Roma in 2006/07.

Ligue 1 has not produced a winner since Josip Skoblar in 1971, a statistic the likes of Messi and Mbappe are hoping to change soon.

What are the European Golden Shoe rules and weightings?

Only league goals are eligible for the European Golden Shoe, with each strike earning points in a weighted system depending on the quality of league.

The five elite leagues – Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 – all carry a weighting of 2, meaning that a player will be awarded two points for every goal they score in these competitions.

For the leagues ranked sixth to 21 in Uefa’s coefficients rankings – which includes the top-flights in Portugal, Netherlands and Russia – goals scored are given a weighting of 1.5, and goals scored in a league outwith the top 21 are given a weighting of 1.

That was not always the case in the European Golden Shoe. From 1968 until 1991, the award simply went to the highest goalscorer on the continent, regardless of the strength of league.

Awards were not initially handed out between 1991 until 1996, when the new system came into force. Since then, only two players playing outside what were the five highest-ranked leagues at the time have ever won the Golden Shoe – Henrik Larsson (2000/01) and Mario Jardel (2001/02).

The Golden Shoe has been tied in the past, most recently when Suarez and Ronaldo shared the honour in 2013/14. Going forward, though, the award will be given to the player who has played the fewest minutes if two of them end up on the same number of points.

This page covers the 2021/22 European Golden Shoe race.

Last season’s standings can be found here and if you want to see the final results for the 2019/20 European Golden Shoe, follow this link.

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