Messi says he signed documents under father's instructions

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi denied having knowledge of the tax issues that led to fraud charges against him, saying Thursday he signed documents without reading them because he trusted his father and the advisers responsible for managing his finances.

"I didn't know anything," Messi said while testifying in his tax fraud trial. "I only worried about playing football."

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Wearing a dark suit and tie, Messi sat alongside his father in front of the judge and listened to other testimony for nearly four hours before being called to testify in the third day of the trial.

The Barcelona player looked impatient in court at times, looking down and trying to stretch his legs. The left foot that helps him thrive on the soccer fields kept bouncing impatiently underneath the chair.

On Wednesday, Messi's lawyers tried to show the court that the Barcelona forward was not familiar with the tax issues. Witnesses called to testify said Messi had little knowledge of the alleged corporate structures.

Tax inspectors earlier Thursday testified that they found evidence that the structures were used by Messi's father to avoid paying the taxes that the player supposedly owed in Spain.

A witness on Wednesday said Messi's father knew they would avoid taxes by using companies in other countries, but contended that it was a legal practice.

Messi is 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 2011-12.