Messi's back better, as he faces tax fraud charges in court

BUENOS AIRES • Lionel Messi's condition has improved, after the football superstar suffered a back injury in Argentina's 1-0 friendly win over Honduras on Friday.

Team doctor Daniel Martinez told La Nacion newspaper on Saturday that the forward felt less pain in his lower back, after being left writhing in agony after a collision with Honduran Oliver Morazan in the Argentinian city of San Juan.

"Messi is better, with less pain than last night. His recovery is day to day, there are several treatments for this type of blow," Martinez said.

The Argentina Football Association said on its website that the player had suffered a "significant bone and soft tissue contusion of the left rib cage and lumbar paraspinal area".

Messi's injury gave Argentina a scare as they prepare for the Copa America in the United States next month.

He remained at the team hotel on Saturday as the rest of the squad flew to the California city of Santa Clara, outside San Francisco, where they will be based before their opening Copa America game against Chile on June 6.

The Barcelona player was expected to return to Spain to attend what is expected to be a two-day trial, starting tomorrow, for allegedly defrauding Spain of more than €4 million (S$6.1 million) in unpaid taxes.

After winning a Spanish league and Cup double with Barcelona, the five-time World Player of the Year and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, will confront in court the allegations that have dogged him since June 2013.

The duo are accused of using a chain of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on €4.16 million of Messi's income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-09.

They have been charged with three counts of tax fraud.

Spanish prosecutors are seeking a jail sentence of 221/2 months for the pair if they are found guilty, plus fines equivalent to the amount that was allegedly defrauded.

However, any such sentence would likely be suspended, as it is common in Spain for first offences carrying a sentence of less than two years.

Under Spanish law, a defendant is not obliged to attend the full trial if prosecutors seek a jail sentence of less than two years, which means Messi may only show up on Thursday for his testimony.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline 'Messi's back better, as he faces tax fraud charges in court'. Print Edition | Subscribe