Adidas Soccer Star Lionel Messi A No-Show For Start Of Tax Evasion Trial

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi.
Rex Features.

Adidas-sponsored soccer player Lionel Messi missed the start of his trial Tuesday in Barcelona, where he is facing tax evasion charges.

According to a report by Reuters, the Barcelona and Argentina forward suffered a back injury during a friendly against Honduras in a Copa América Centenario on Friday that prevented him from attending the first day of the trial.

Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, are accused by the Spanish tax office of defrauding the government of 4.2 million euros (or $4.7 million) between 2007 and 2009. They could face up to 22 months in prison as well as hefty fines if found guilty.

The 28-year-old player and his father, who also reportedly missed the hourlong hearing, deny the allegations, although they made a voluntary “corrective” payment of 5 million euros ($5.6 million) following the start of the investigation in 2013.

Messi is not required to attend court every day, but his lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Vera, offered an explanation for his absence, Reuters reports.

“The intention of Mr. Lionel was to attend the plenary hearing, but he has suffered an injury,” Sanchez-Vera said in court, presenting a medical report, according to Reuters.

The Argentina Football Federation announced on Monday that Messi was recovering from his back injury, noting that his pain levels had decreased.

The star soccer player is expected to testify in court on Thursday.

In January, FIFA announced that Messi had beat out star players Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar da Silva Santos Junior to win the 2015 FIFA Ballon D’or (“Golden Ball”). The award is given to the best male player in the previous year.

Later that month, Adidas announced the creation if a custom version of the Messi 15 soccer cleat and unveiled a new ad campaign around the star.