Soccer

Messi relaxed about tax problems, Neymar's arrival

Lionel Messi
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is accused of avoiding paying $5.3 million in tax.
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP)

Lionel Messi is not worried about solving his tax problems or about the arrival of Brazil star Neymar at Barcelona.

''I'm very relaxed,'' Messi said after training on Wednesday, adding he was at a distance from financial matters.

''My dad and I have our advisers who handle these things and we trust them. I hope it gets solved. I don't understand any of this and that's why we have lawyers.''

Messi, one of the world's highest-paid sportsmen, and his father Jorge have been ordered by a Spanish court to appear before a judge in September over allegations that they defrauded the Spanish tax office of 4 million euros ($5.3 million).

Messi is rated by Forbes magazine as the world's 10th highest-paid athlete after reportedly earning $41.3 million to June this year, with $20.3 million coming from his club salary and $21 million in endorsements.

Spain's state prosecutor alleges Messi and his father used shell companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on revenues from image rights.

If charged and found guilty - barring an out-of-court settlement - the 26-year-old star and his father could face fines amounting to 150 percent of concealed earnings and two to six years in jail.

Messi, who until the alleged fraud problem arose had led a quiet life free of major scandal, has denied any wrongdoing.

He has received the backing of Barcelona club president Sandro Rosell and predecessor Joan Laporta, who was in charge during the years of the alleged tax irregularities.

Messi welcomed the arrival of Neymar, who was ''a great player'' who will have no problem adapting to Barcelona. ''He's going to make a difference,'' Messi said.

He said Neymar was the type of player who can unsettle opponents in one-on-one situations, and would give the team a lot.

''We won't have problems off the field either,'' Messi said, adding, ''he's a good guy.''

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