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Lionel Messi gets 21 months in jail for tax fraud, likely won’t serve time

FC Barcelona v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League

BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 24: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between FC Barcelona and AS Roma at Camp Nou stadium on November 24, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

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Lionel Messi and his father Jorge have each been sentenced to 21 months in prison in Spain.

According to reports from the court, Spanish outlet El Periodico says the duo were found guilty of three counts of tax fraud in Barcelona on Wednesday, as they were found guilty of defrauding the Spanish authorities of $4.5 million in tax between 2007 and 2009.

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Messi, 29, has been involved in this highly public long-term case against the Spanish government and although he has been handed a prison sentence he is unlikely to end up in jail.

That’s because under Spanish law he and his father will likely only serve probation, as any jail term under two years for a first time offender does not usually see the individual go behind bars.

Still, not a great look for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner who is the all-time leading goalscorer for Barcelona and in La Liga.

The decision can be appealed to the Spanish supreme court and it seemed for a long time that Messi would not be charged but his father would.

However during the trial in June the representatives of the tax office in Spain said that Lionel knew enough to be held responsible for his actions.

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More damage could also be coming Messi’s way as he will be expecting hefty fines for using Belize and Uruguay to conceal the money he earned from image rights.

It comes at the end of a tumultuous few weeks for Messi, as he announced his retirement from international soccer following Argentina’s defeat in the Copa America Centenario final against Chile on Jun. 26.

Did this impending court case have an impact on his decision to quit Argentina?

A potential travel ban while on probation could cause him plenty of issues not just for Argentina but also for Barcelona’s upcoming UEFA Champions League campaign.

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Both Messi and his father deny any wrongdoing and Lionel admitted during the trial last month that he signed most of the contracts without reading them.

This case has been rumbling on since 2013 and since then they’ve paid over $5.5 million in extra charges and it has been reported they’ve also paid $11 million in taxes on image rights for 2010 until 2011.

Another Argentina and Barcelona star, Javier Mascherano, was also handed a jail sentence earlier this year as he was found guilty of tax fraud. His sentence was deferred for two years after his legal team challenged the excessive nature of a new fee he had to pay.

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