A Spanish judge has placed Gerard Pique, the former high-profile player at Spanish soccer giants Barcelona and now the owner of sports agency Kosmos, under official investigation for alleged involvement in illegal payments.

These relate, judge Delia Rodrigo said in a court document, to the relocation of the Spanish Super Cup annual tournament to Saudi Arabia, which took place in 2019-20 (at which point Pique was still a senior player at Barcelona).

The documents allege that there are indications of wrongdoing in the agreement made between Kosmos and the Spanish soccer federation, the RFEF.

It has been alleged that Luis Rubiales (the now-disgraced former RFEF president), Pique, and the Sela Sport Company owned by the Saudi government, struck a deal in 2019 which included Kosmos receiving a €40 million ($43.3 million) ‘success bonus’ as reward for the Super Cup taking place in Saudi Arabia (in the capital, Riyadh) annually.

The RFEF, meanwhile, was set to receive €400 million.

Rodrigo wrote in the documents: “The facts under investigation in the present proceedings originate from possible illegalities with criminal implications in contracting or agreements.”

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The Super Cup deal, struck in 2019, gave Saudi Arabia the right to host the next six editions of the tournament, from the 2019-20 season onwards while also expanding what had been a one-game competition to a four-match affair featuring four teams (the LaLiga and Copa del Rey winners, as well as the beaten finalists and second-placed team from those competitions).

The shifting of the format of the Super Cup means there is a much greater chance of both Real Madrid and Barcelona, Spain's traditional heavyweights, being involved and thus makes marketing the games to overseas hosts, sponsors, and broadcasters much easier.

The overall investigation into whether Rubiales was engaged in improper management when the RFEF struck that deal to move the Super Cup was opened in June 2022.

In March, Spanish police arrested seven people and searched both the RFEF headquarters and an apartment owned by Rubiales, while in April Rubiales was told he was a suspect.

Pique was originally awarded a personal annual payment, through the deal, of $4.33 million, over six years (this was then extended for another four years).

Even the current president of the RFEF, Pedro Rocha, is being investigated – at the time the deal was signed, he failed to properly analyze it through his role as head of the RFEF’s economic department, and did not call a meeting to do so.

When leaked audio recordings of Pique and Rubiales speaking about the deal were initially released by Spanish media in April 2022, Pique said he had nothing to hide, and all his actions had been legal.