Lionel Messi has been formally charged with tax evasion by Spanish authorities.
The Barcelona superstar is alleged to have defrauded the government of around £3.4million along with his father Jorge Horacio Messi.
A court summons was put to the pair earlier this month after a year-long investigation by tax officers in Catalonia.
It suggests that the father and son duo evaded paying income tax in the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 – a crime that carries a possible jail term.
Messi rejected the accusations at the time, insisting it was ‘all a misunderstanding’, but he was formally charged by a Barcelona court with the offence today.
The World Footballer of the Year will now appear in court on September 17 along with his father to fight the case.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo claims the court will seek several sanctions in the meantime, such as the suspension of his passport, in order to restrict his movement.
Such a restriction would rule Messi out of Barcelona’s forthcoming global pre-season tour that includes fixtures in eastern Europe and Asia and is worth millions to the player in image rights.