Lionel Messi Could Be Dragged Down by Tax Evasion Case

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Lionel Messi Could Be Dragged Down by Tax Evasion Case
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Now that the World Cup is over, Barcelona supporters hoped that we may see the Lionel Messi of old fit and firing again, but the tax evasion case could be a millstone around his neck.

Last season the Argentine was off his game, appearing out of sorts at times, sluggish, unwilling to run.

Despite this, his immense ability still shone through, and he notched 28 La Liga goals, behind only Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo. Reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

That said, he did not seem to be playing with the same freedom and joy that he once did.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Messi seemed to lack the same joy last season.

Part of that was because Barcelona as a whole were no longer the force they once were. Part of it, some believed, was because he was "saving himself" for the World Cup.

Whatever the cause, the latter has come and gone, the former may be solved by new man Luis Enrique taking the reins.

Barcelona supporters, and even the larger football world, were hoping that Messi could take the field without any extra pressures on his shoulders and simply play, like only he knows how.

However, the tax evasion case has reared its ugly head once more and provides an added distraction for Messi.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Messi wants to concentrate on what he's best at.

Judges have confirmed that Messi could still be prosecuted, per Adam Withnall of The Independent.

Messi is accused of defrauding Spain of more than €4 million. 

It seemed that the player himself may be out of the spotlight when the country's public prosecutor asked for the charges against him to be dropped, with his father, Jorge Messi, solely taking the blame.

But the court have rejected that application, saying that they have "sufficient evidence" to suggest the Blaugrana playmaker may have been aware of the alleged infringements.

The Messi family have denied all wrongdoing, but it will be up to the tax office and the state prosecutor's office to decide if the case makes it to court.

The prosecutor's office believe that money made from image rights was hidden by using shell companies in different worldwide companies.

Per David Kent, of the Daily Mail:

According to the prosecutor’s office for tax crimes in Catalonia, income from the sale of Messi’s image rights was hidden using a complex web of shell companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and United Kingdom to avoid paying tax in Spain.

The income was connected to contracts with Banco Sabadell, Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Proctor and Gamble, and the Kuwait Food Company.

Paco Serinelli/Associated Press
Messi pictured outside court.

In July, Messi himself said: "I never take care of that (tax) stuff myself and neither does my father. We have our lawyers and our wealth managers to take care of that and we trust them and they will sort this out. The truth is I don’t have a clue about all this and that is why we have people taking care of it."

However, if the prosecutors get their way, then Messi himself may end up having to appear in court and that may detract from his performances in the season ahead.

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