Lionel Messi to train with Argentina before Copa America and tax case
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino says that national captain Lionel Messi will prepare with the squad in Buenos Aires for June's Copa America Centenario, before flying back to Catalonia to give evidence in a tax case and then travelling to the United States for his team's first game in the competition.
In the continuing investigation into whether the Spanish taxpayer was defrauded of €4.1 million in taxes between 2007 and 2009, Barcelona star Messi and his father are due to appear before a judge at the Audiencia de Barcelona on June 2.
Argentina's Copa America campaign begins on June 6 against Chile at Levi's Stadium near San Francisco, while their group D fixtures also see them face Panama in Chicago on June 10 and Bolivia in Seattle on June 14.
Martino said in Sport that after playing for Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla in Madrid on Sunday May 22, Messi would make the two trips across the Atlantic to ensure he could train with his teammates ahead of Argentina's chance to win a first senior international trophy since the 1993 Copa America.
"Messi will come to train, I am not saying with the group on [May] 23 as the 22 is the Copa del Rey final," the Albiceleste coach said. "But he will be with us the first days of that week when the squad begins to train. Then he will make the journey he must make to declare [in court] and then he will go directly to the U.S. Nobody needs to be worried about this."
Both Lionel and Jorge Messi appeared in court previously in the Catalan town of Gava in September 2013 to give evidence in the potential tax fraud case, and both reportedly claim to have not knowingly committed any crime.
Since news of the issue broke during summer 2013 the Messi family have reportedly paid €5m to the authorities, to cover money owed from the 2007 to 2009 period (plus interest). They are also said to have voluntarily paid €10m in taxes due on such income for the years 2010 and 2011.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan