BARCELONA: Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud though he is not expected to see the inside of a prison cell even if he should fail with any appeal.

His father, Jorge Messi, was also handed a jail term for defrauding Spain of €4.1m between 2007 and 2009.

The two also face millions of euros in fines for using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay used to conceal earnings from image rights.

However, under the Spanish system, prison terms under two years can be suspended and served on probation.

The Barcelona and Argentina superstar and his father were found guilty of three counts of tax fraud in today’s ruling by a court in Barcelona.

During the trial, the player claimed he “knew nothing” about the management of his financial affairs because he concentrated solely on his career.

Barcelona stood solidly by Messi, stating: “The club, in agreement with the government prosecution service, considers that the player, who has corrected his position with the Spanish tax office, is in no way criminally responsible with regards to the facts underlined in this case.”