Messi Could Miss the Copa América Opener to Face Tax Fraud Charges in Court

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Lionel Messi will be on the Barcelona bench as a precaution during this afternoon’s first-leg Copa del Rey quarterfinal matchup against Athletic Bilbao. He will face a different kind of bench come May 31: that of the Catalan Superior Court of Justice.

The court has confirmed May 31 to June 3 as the Argentine crack and five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s tax trial date. It comes just three days after the UEFA Champions League final and carries a potential end date that directly coincides with the start of the Copa América Centenario.

Messi and his father and agent, Jorge Messi, are being charged with three counts of tax fraud dating back to 2007-2009 and amounting to €4.1 million. The unaccounted for revenue was hidden by using companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland, and the UK. Previously, the Barça legend had been set to avoid judicial proceedings on the grounds that his dad was in charge of his tax obligations.

The two have already paid €5 million as a corrective measure since formally being charged in June of 2013. Despite this, Spain’s state attorney has ordered both father and son to appear in the Eighth Court of Barcelona. He’s demanding 22-month jail sentences to boot.

Those of you planning to watch Argentina’s Centenario debut in Santa Clara on June 6, be wary. This development could play into Messi’s preparation for the centennial competition.