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  1. ITV Report

Lionel Messi hit with 'suspended' jail term of 21 months

Despite being sentenced in court Lionel Messi won't go to jail because of the protection of Spanish law. Credit: PA

Football superstar Lionel Messi has received a jail sentence of 21 months for tax fraud but is not expected to go to prison under Spanish law.

The Barcelona forward and his father were both sentenced in a Spanish court, which handed down a fine of two million euros (£1.7m) for three tax crimes to the footballer.

His father, Jorge Horácio Messi, was given the same jail sentence and a fine of 1.5 million euros (£1.27m).

Lionel Messi has battled legal proceedings over his tax for several years. Credit: Reuters

Neither man is likely to serve jail time because the sentence falls below 24 months and they have no prior criminal record, which means the sentence should be suspended under Spanish law.

The sentence can be appealed in Spain's supreme court.

The long-running case relates to a scheme to avoid paying £3.4m of tax on Messi's image rights.

The Argentinian star, who last week retired from play from his country after losing the final of the Copa America, can easily pay the fines.

His reported weekly earnings are £336,000 and net worth is £270 million.

He appeared alongside his father Jorge Horácio Messi at the trial in June. Credit: Reuters

The disputed tax payments date back to a period from 2007 to 2009, a time when Messi helped to transform Barca into the world's best team.

The 29-year-old star has always denied any knowledge of his tax affairs, saying he concentrated on football, while his father has claimed he left it all up to financial advisers.

Barcelona team-mate Neymar was recently fined almost £40m by a Brazilian court for evading tax on his sponsorship deals.

Like Messi, he also denies any wrongdoing and is appealing against that ruling.