Messi is totally innocent, insists lawyer

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By Ben Hayward in Barcelona

Lionel Messi is innocent of tax fraud and speculation about an out-of-court settlement on Thursday is wide of the mark, insists his lawyer, Angel Juarez.

The Barcelona star and his father have been summoned to appear in court on September 17 to respond to a complaint signed earlier in June by prosecutor Raquel Amado in the Gava district of the Catalan capital.

The Spanish tax authorities allege that the Argentine failed to declare more than €4 million (£3.4m) in image rights income earned between 2006 and 2009 and reports in the Catalan press on Thursday claimed that the forward had agreed to settle out of court for around €15m (£12.8m).

"Those stories were published without any confirmation from us or any consultation," Juarez told Goal in a telephone conversation late on Thursday.

"Nobody can confirm that information. We cannot comment on any questions concerning my client [but] we still believe totally in his innocence - that has never changed."

Messi reportedly has two months to prove his innocence in order to avoid a court appearance but Juarez says that there will be no further developments in the short term.

"The latest news is that [of the court summons] but the next news will not be soon," he continued. "There will no more developments [for now]."

The first round of Champions League action takes place on September 17 and Messi will be keen to avoid a court date on that very same day.

"It could be [settled out of court]," Juarez confirmed. "That is one of the possibilites."

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