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Barcelona launch campaign to support Lionel Messi after tax fraud conviction

Barcelona have launched a campaign urging fans to "express their sympathy" in support of forward Lionel Messi after he appealed against a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud imposed by a Catalan court.

Messi and his father, Jorge, were sentenced on Wednesday after a Barcelona court found them both guilty of three counts of defrauding the tax department to the tune of €4.1million.

Under Spanish law, sentences under two years are usually suspended but, nonetheless, Barca have called on supporters to voice their "unconditional support on social networks".

A statement on www.fcbarcelona.com read: "FC Barcelona has set up a campaign in support of Leo Messi following the sentence issued this week against the Argentinian and his father.

"Using the hashtag #WeAreAllLeoMessi while posting a photo or message with both hands open, the campaign is encouraging all Barca fans to express their sympathy for the greatest footballer in the world by voicing their unconditional support on social networks.

"By making it clear that #WeAreAllMessi, we want Leo to know that he is not alone. All members, supporters clubs, fans, athletes, media and everyone else are invited to participate."

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Lionel Messi to retire from international football

Lionel Messi Credit: Reuters

Argentina's Lionel Messi has said he is retiring from international football after losing the Copa America Final.

Chile beat Argentina 4-2 on penalties after the match ended 0-0.

"It's tough, it's not the time for analysis," the 29-year-old Barcelona forward was quoted as saying on the Argentine national team's Twitter account.

"In the dressing room I thought that the national team was over, it's not for me."

Lionel Messi after missing a penalty kick against Chile in the Copa America Final at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Reuters

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Messi on form as Barcelona score six

Lionel Messi is quite good. Credit: Reuters

Lionel Messi created three goals and scored another as Barcelona warmed up for their Champions League showdown with Arsenal by thrashing Getafe 6-0 at the Nou Camp to equal a club record 12 consecutive La Liga wins.

The Argentinian missed a fourth penalty of the season after Juan Rodriguez's own goal had given the Catalans the lead after just eight minutes, but soon made amends by laying on goals for Munir El Haddadi and Neymar before he got on the scoresheet himself with a brilliant strike from 20 yards.

Messi got his third assist by teeing up Neymar's second after the break and then Arda Turan scored for the second time in three matches with an impressive bicycle kick.

Lionel Messi goes past 300 La Liga goals for Barcelona

Messi scored twice in the opening 31 minutes at Sporting Gijon. Credit: PA

Lionel Messi has powered past another phenomenal achievement after scoring his 300th and 301st La Liga goals for Barcelona.

The five times Ballon d'Or winner took just 25 minutes to find the target against Sporting Gijon on Wednesday, and doubled his tally for the match in the 31st minute – moments after Gijon had equalised through Carlos Castro.

Messi has now scored 301 league goals in 334 matches, taking his tally in all competitions for Barcelona to 437. In doing so, the Argentina international also notched the 10,000th goal in Barcelona's history.

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