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MADRID (AP) Lionel Messi’s tax trial began Tuesday with the player deciding not to appear in court for early proceedings.
Messi is facing a prison sentence of nearly two years on charges he failed to properly pay taxes for part of his earnings from Barcelona from 2007-09.
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The Argentina playmaker is not obligated to appear in the Barcelona court until Thursday, when he is scheduled to testify before a judge. Sentencing is not expected until next week.
Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, have been charged with three counts of tax fraud for allegedly defrauding Spain’s tax office of 4.1 million euros ($4.5 million).
Because of the trial, Messi is missing Argentina’s preparation for the Copa America Centenario, which begins Saturday in the United States. He is expected to fly straight to the U.S. to join his teammates after the trial ends. Argentina debuts in the tournament on Monday against defending champion Chile.
Even if found guilty, it is highly unlikely that Messi or his father will face any jail time. They have denied wrongdoing.
“Everything is good. Everybody is calm,” said Messi’s lawyer, Enrique Bacigalupo, as he arrived at the Barcelona court on Tuesday.
The trial is centered on alleged unlawful activities of Messi’s father, but authorities said the player knew enough to also be named in the case. Officials said that although Messi was mostly unfamiliar with tax issues, there was sufficient evidence to believe he could have known and consented to the creation of a fictitious corporate structure to avoid paying taxes on income from his image rights.
In addition to each facing a prison sentence of 22 months and 15 days, Messi and his father could also be fined in the amount defrauded and ordered to pay all legal proceedings and the loss of any possible tax benefits for a year and a half.
Messi is just the latest high-profile player to have to deal with Spain’s tough tax system. Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Adriano and Xabi Alonso also were targeted by authorities recently.
Mascherano, Messi’s teammate with Argentina and Barcelona, earlier this year was handed a suspended one-year prison sentence for not paying nearly 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in taxes for 2011 and 2012. Brazil striker Neymar recently had to testify before a judge because of alleged irregularities involving his transfer to Barcelona. He and the club were accused of withholding the real amount of the transfer fee, in part to avoid paying the full amount of taxes.
Messi was also being investigated by Spanish tax authorities after his name was among those released in the probe of international offshore accounts, known as the Panama Papers, although he was not charged for those allegations.
David Alaba is going to want this one back…
While playing in a friendly for Austria, the Bayern Munich left-back scored a cringe-worthy own-goal that his teammates will surely never let him forget.
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With Austria leading Malta 2-0, goalkeeper Ramazan Ozcan played out of the back to Alaba. As pressure come from Malta’s strikers, Alaba turned and played a blind pass back to his keeper.
The only problem is, his keeper wasn’t there.
Ozcan did the right thing and moved outside of his goal to give Alaba support, only the defender never picked up his head to realize. Austria would hold on to win the match 2-1.
After winning their EURO qualification group with nine wins from ten matches, Austria has high hopes of making a run in the tournament. They will play in Group F with Portugal, Iceland, and Hungary.
France has high expectations heading into EURO 2016, as the host nation is currently the bookies’ favorite to lift the trophy on July 10.
With manager Didier Deschamps announcing his final 23-man roster on Tuesday, you can see why the French are excited to get the tournament underway.
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This team is overflowing with talent at every position and will cause nightmare matchup problems for the opposition, while also feeding off of their home crowd.
Eleven players from the Premier League have made the French side, from Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who leads the team as captain with 72 caps, to Leicester’s midfield workhorse N'Golo Kante, who has just three appearances for Les Bleus. Manchester United’s Morgan Schneiderlin was a late inclusion as Lassana Diarra was forced to withdraw through injury just hours after being selected to the final squad.
Lyon’s 22-year-old defender Samuel Umtiti makes the side despite never being capped with the senior team, replacing the injured Jeremy Mathieu. Adil Rami also makes the cut in place of Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, who is out with a thigh problem.
Final 23-man roster
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Benoit Costil (Stade Rennais)
Defenders: Samuel Umtiti (Lyon), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Adil Rami (Sevilla), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Lucas Digne (Roma), Christophe Jallet (Lyon)
Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Juventus), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United), N’Golo Kante (Leicester City), Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United), Dimitri Payet (West Ham United)
Keylor Navas will not play for Costa Rica in the upcoming Copa America tournament while nursing an achilles injury.
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Diagnosed with chronic Achilles tendinopathy, the Real Madrid goalkeeper has been bothered by discomfort throughout the season.
However, he did play the full 120 minutes in the Champions League final for last weekend, helping Real to a record 11th European title.
The loss is a big one for Costa Rica, whose three goalkeepers now on the squad have a combined 34 caps for the national team. Navas alone has 66.
Navas tied the Champions League record with nine clean sheets in the competition this season, and has quietly been one of the best keepers in the world over the past few seasons. His absence could be beneficial for the United States though, who will face Costa Rica in Group A play.