Lionel Messi is going to stand trial for tax evasion

Lionel Messi’s one of the world’s most creative players – and that’s just his tax returns.

It’s one of life’s little cruelties that rich folks often pay a lower tax rate than the rest of us, because they can afford to hire clever lawyers who come up with all sorts of smart ways of manipulating money.

Occasionally, though, the authorities call bullshit. After a series of stories in England about soccer players using tax avoidance schemes, now Messi’s the center of attention. As detailed by the Guardian, a high court in Barcelona “said it believed there was evidence that Messi – whether knowingly or not – benefited from a complex network of companies that kept 4.1 million euros ($4.6m) from Spanish tax authorities between 2007 and 2009.

“The authorities have accused Messi’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi, of selling the football star’s image rights using shell companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the UK to avoid reporting earnings in Spain. The scheme allegedly began when Messi was a minor. Both Messi and his father have denied any wrongdoing.”

The story’s been rumbling in the background for a few months, with Messi’s people trying to get the case dismissed, having voluntarily paid off the sum alleged to be unpaid, plus interest.

Interestingly, though — especially in the wake of Messi helping Barcelona win the Champions League last Saturday — the court isn’t letting him off because he’s a.) the best player in the world, b.) a local hero, c.) rich and famous. And the Guardian reports he may stand trial, accused of tax evasion. What kind of warped sense of justice is that?

In hindsight, of course, such a complex arrangement for such a relatively small portion of his earnings doesn’t look worth it. But back in 2007, when Messi was 20, it was surely a lot of money to him.