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Messi to appear in court in tax fraud case

June 20, 2013 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
Lionel Messi celebrates after matching Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year, netting in the 16th minute of Barcelona's match against Real Betis in December 2012. Just nine minutes later the Argentina star passed the German's 1972 milestone. Lionel Messi celebrates after matching Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year, netting in the 16th minute of Barcelona's match against Real Betis in December 2012. Just nine minutes later the Argentina star passed the German's 1972 milestone.
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Messi beats Muller
Time to spare
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For club and country
El Clasico
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Spanish court rules that Lionel Messi and his father must testify in tax case
  • The Barcelona soccer star denies all allegations of wrongdoing
  • He is accused by Spanish tax authorities of handing in fraudulent returns
  • The Argentine is said to owe $5 million relating to image rights revenue

(CNN) -- Soccer star Lionel Messi must appear in court on September 17 to face possible charges of tax fraud, prosecutors in Spain said Thursday.

The four-time world player of the year and his father Jorge Horacio Messi are suspected of defrauding Spanish tax authorities of more than $5 million between 2006 and 2009. They deny the charges.

A judge will decide after the hearing whether to go ahead with the case, which is being held in a town near Barcelona -- where Messi has lived since moving from his native Argentina as a teenager.

Messi, who turns 26 next Monday, is 10th on the list of the world's highest-paid athletes as compiled by business magazine Forbes with earnings of $41 million.

Read: Neymar pledges to back Messi

Golf's world No. 1 Tiger Woods has reclaimed his position as the world's highest-earning athlete, according to Forbes. The 14-time major winner picked up $13.1 million in salary/winnings in the 12 months to June 1, as well as $65 million from endorsements with companies such as Nike. Woods is thought to be close to resigning with the American sportswear giant. Golf's world No. 1 Tiger Woods has reclaimed his position as the world's highest-earning athlete, according to Forbes. The 14-time major winner picked up $13.1 million in salary/winnings in the 12 months to June 1, as well as $65 million from endorsements with companies such as Nike. Woods is thought to be close to resigning with the American sportswear giant.
1. Tiger Woods - $78.1M
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Arjen Robben celebrates with his Bayern Munich teammates after their resounding second leg victory over Barcelona in the Nou Camp. Arjen Robben celebrates with his Bayern Munich teammates after their resounding second leg victory over Barcelona in the Nou Camp.
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Real Madrid have usurped Manchester United as the world's most valuable soccer club according to Forbes. The Spanish giants, whose star player is Cristiano Ronaldo, increased their value by 76% over the past year to $3.3 billion.
Real Madrid have usurped Manchester United as the world's most valuable soccer club according to Forbes. The Spanish giants, whose star player is Cristiano Ronaldo, increased their value by 76% over the past year to $3.3 billion.
Real Madrid - the world's most valuable club
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According to the papers filed on June 12 by prosecutor Raquel Amado in Gava, a seaside resort close to Barcelona where Messi lives, it is alleged that they tried to avoid paying taxes in Spain by selling the player's image rights through overseas companies.

His club Barcelona said it was not involved, as the image rights payments are independent of the reported $20 million yearly salary he receives from the Spanish champion team.

Messi used his Facebook website page to deny the charges earlier this month.

"We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities," read the statement in Spanish and English.

Read: Woods tops highest-paid athlete list

"We are surprised about the news, because we have never committed any infringement.

"We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advice of our tax consultants, who will take care of clarifying this situation."

Messi joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old in 2000, and has won six Primera Liga titles, three European Champions League crowns. Last year he scored an unprecedented 86 goals for club and country.

CNN's Laura Perez Maestro contributed to this report.

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