Football: Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi arrives at Spanish court for tax hearing

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (centre) arrives at a court in Gava, near Barcelona, Spain on Friday, Sept 27, 2013, to answer tax evasion charges. -- PHOTO: AP
Barcelona's Lionel Messi (centre) arrives at a court in Gava, near Barcelona, Spain on Friday, Sept 27, 2013, to answer tax evasion charges. -- PHOTO: AP

GAVA, SPAIN (AFP) - Barcelona's Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi arrived at court on Friday to answer tax evasion charges.

Messi arrived by car shortly before 11:00 am (0900 GMT) and walked up to the entrance of the courthouse in Gava, the Barcelona suburb where he lives.

Dressed in a dark jacket and white shirt, he made no comment to the waiting crowd of reporters and fans.

Messi, 26, is widely considered the best footballer in the world and has been named Fifa World Player of the Year four times.

His father Jorge Messi, who was summoned to go before the judge ahead of the player, arrived an hour earlier with his lawyers.

The two were summoned on charges of evading tax on the player's image rights to the tune of 4.16 million euros (S$7 million). They have denied wrongdoing, pointing the finger at a former agent of the player.

Jorge Messi paid the tax authorities 5 million euros in August - the 4.16 million euros claimed by the taxman plus interest - which is likely to significantly reduce any sentence should they be found guilty.

Lionel Messi's form on the field has scarcely been affected, with the Barcelona forward scoring 10 goals in just seven matches this season as the Spanish champions remain unbeaten.

Nor does it appear to have tarnished his image among Barcelona fans.

"What I want is for this to be resolved quickly so Messi can relax and focus on the football," said one fan outside the court, Joaquin Bosch, 60, wearing a Barcelona shirt.