A GIBRALTAR firm is at the centre of a row over the image rights of Barcelona football ace Lionel Messi.

The fall-out is over disputed shares in Sport Consultants Ltd, a firm set up by Gibraltar-based Sovereign Trust to control the use of the Argentinean’s commercial image rights.

The row – between the player’s mum Celia Maria Cuccittini de Messi and football agent Rodolfo Hector Schinocca – relates to ownership of 25,000 shares in the company.

The judge ruled the mother was the ‘absolute legal and beneficial owner’ of the shares, following a hearing at Gibraltar’s Supreme Court.

Schinocca claimed he had agreed to invest $250,000 in 2004, in return for a 50 per cent stake in the image rights for the three-time World Footballer of the Year.

But the Messi family disputed this, claiming they had never agreed for Schinocca to have such a large share in their son’s image rights.

Summing up, the judge said: “Mr Schinocca was improperly seeking to maximise his share of profits in Lionel’s image rights and obtain control of the corporate structure through which these were managed and controlled.”