Barcelona's Javier Mascherano admits to unpaid taxes in Spain

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano told a court on Thursday that he did not properly pay his taxes in Spain after moving from Liverpool.

The Argentine player admitted at a Barcelona court that he failed to pay nearly €1.5 million ($1.6 million) in taxes owed for 2011 and 2012.

Mascherano, who has played for Barcelona since 2010, was accused by Spain's tax office of concealing part of what he earned in image rights during those two years.

The court's press office said the player has already paid back the amount he owed.

With Mascherano's admission, prosecutors and the player's lawyers are expected to reach a deal to keep the case from going to trial.

Mascherano spent only a few minutes in court and was not questioned by prosecutors.

The Superior Court of Justice in Catalonia had earlier this month ordered that the case be heard. The Argentina international faced counts of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of €1.5m related to allegedly undeclared earnings on his image rights in 2011-12 via companies set up in the United States and Portugal.

Spain's tax law allows a player to sell up to 15 percent of his image rights to a company.

However, the country's tax authorities claimed the 31-year-old did not pay taxes on those earnings despite having already become a Spanish resident.

Mascherano, who had not spoken publicly on the matter, paid the money owed as well as €200,000 in interest this past September.

Authorities said Mascherano owed €587,822.01 for 2011 and €968,907.76 for 2012.

The court claimed that Mascherano did not report his Nike earnings from a holding company in the United States nor his image rights earnings in Portugal.

The South American is not the only Barcelona player facing tax evasion charges.

Mascherano's Argentinian compatriot Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Messi are pending trial for tax fraud.

The two are accused of not paying £3.4m in tax on earnings from the player's image rights between 2007 and 2009.

Messi and his father, who is also his agent, have denied any wrongdoing.

A separate court in Madrid is hearing a lawsuit that accuses former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell of evading taxes after misappropriating funds to hide the cost of the transfer fee paid to acquire Brazil striker Neymar from Santos in 2013.

Neymar, meanwhile, has had some of his assets frozen in Brazil because of accusations of tax fraud.

The 23-year-old striker is also being targeted by Spanish authorities over irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona.

Spain's tax office is also investigating midfielder Xabi Alonso's taxes for 2010, when he played for Real Madrid before moving to Bayern Munich in 2014.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.