Lionel Messi

Four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi is to be prosecuted for alleged tax evasion in Spain.

The Barcelona and Argentina star is, along with his father Jorge, accused of defrauding the Spanish state of more than £3.1m between 2006 and 2009, by filing fraudulent tax returns.

Earlier this year, the public prosecutor had urged the court to exempt the younger Messi from prosecution, saying his father was responsible for managing their finances.

But despite this recommendation, the Barcelona court has declared the case against both men should continue since there is evidence to suggest Messi could have been aware of the tax evasion.

The taxes evaded apply to both income and image rights. Both men have denied any fraudulent practice.

Forbes reports that Messi earns £23.5m a year, the fourth-highest-earning sportsperson in the world.

In the football world, only Real Madrid and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo earns more, while basketball player LeBron James and boxer Floyd Mayweather also take home larger pay packets.

Messi initially appeared in court in Gava, just outside Barcelona city, in September 2013. Prosecutors claim the Messi family used shell companies in Belize and Uruguay to bypass tax laws in Spain.

The dire financial straits the Spanish state has found itself in means the Madrid government is attempting to clamp down on tax evasion.