Barcelona football star Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison and fined £1.7m over a tax fraud case in Spain.


However, the striker - generally considered the best in the world currently - is unlikely to face any time in jail as a term of under two years in duration, for a non-violent offence, usually results in a period of probation under Spanish law.

The court in Barcelona found the Argentina player and his father, who handles his financial affairs, guilty of three offences.

Jorge Messi was also handed a 21-month prison term and fine of €1.7m (£1.4m).

He and his son, who is understood to earn £26m in annual salary under his current club contract alone and said to be worth at least £240m, were told they had the right to take their sentences to appeal.

Barcelona's Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi arrives to court with his father Jorge Horacio Messi to stand trial for tax fraud in Barcelona

They were accused of using tax havens in Uruguay and Belize to hide more than £3m in earnings from image rights from the Spanish tax authorities.

The 29-year old footballer told his trial he knew nothing of how his money was managed and admitted signing documents without reading them.

He told the court last month: "The truth is no, the truth is no, I didn't know.

"As my dad explained earlier I just dedicated myself to playing football, I put my trust in my father, in the lawyers who had decided to manage this thing."

Messi's lawyers said he never examined a series of contracts between 2007 and 2009 which dealt with the income from image rights with companies including Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Danone, Procter and Gamble, Banco Sabadell and the Kuwait Food Company.

He made a voluntary payment of £3.8m in August 2013 to cover unpaid tax and interest.

Messi - who has been voted World Player of the Year five times - confirmed his international retirement in the run-up to the verdict after Argentina crashed to a defeat against Chile in the final of the Copa America.
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