Lionel Messi is reportedly set to sue Spanish newspaper El Confidencial after allegations the Barcelona star "[set] up a tax fraud network."
The Argentinian will reportedly accuse El Confidencial of defamation after being linked to the Panama Papers and "using Panamanian company Mega Star Enterprises to avoid paying tax on image rights deals," per the Mirror's Ed Malyon.
The report said the Madrid paper produced documents with the signatures of Messi and his father, Jorge, in acquiring Mega Star Enterprises the day after being indicted by Spanish authorities for another case involving "an alleged €4million in unpaid taxes."
The accusations against Messi emerged after the leak of more than 11 million documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm, which German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung obtained, per BBC Sport's Richard Conway.
Per Malyon, El Confidencial confirmed that Lionel and Jorge Messi will be suing the paper.
"In response to the news released by various media outlets in which Lionel Messi is held responsible for the forming of a company with the aim of 'putting in place a new web of tax fraud,' the Messi family wishes to make it clear that Lionel Messi has not carried out any of the actions he is accused of, the accusations of having created a new web of tax fraud and, even, money laundering, are false and libelous," a statement from Messi's family read in part, per Goal.com.
Messi is not the only high-profile name implicated by the tranche of documents, as former UEFA President Michel Platini and Russian President Vladimir Putin were also involved, per La Sexta and El Confidencial (via Marca's Aldo Sainati).
Spanish football writer Rafael Hernandez noted the documents only prove that Messi has an offshore account:
However, he and his father face further accusations over their separate fraud case and will soon be due in court to face them, per Reuters (via the Guardian).
Messi's Barca side lost for the first time in 40 matches on Saturday, as Real Madrid downed them 2-1 in El Clasico:
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They still have a six-point lead at the top of the La Liga table but will be eager to bounce back with a victory in their next Spanish top-flight outing, against Real Sociedad on April 9.