Messi loses appeal against sentence

Barcelona star Lionel Messi has lost his appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court against a suspended 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud.

Messi was given the jail term last July after being found guilty – alongside his father Jorge – of three counts of tax fraud.

It was ruled he had defrauded Spain of €4.1million between 2007 and 2009, relating to earnings from image rights.

Court documents on Wednesday show the 29-year-old has lost his appeal to the Supreme Court, with the sentence issued by a Catalan court being confirmed.

The Argentina international is not likely to face time in jail because, according to Spanish law, sentences for non-violent offences under two years in duration can be served under probation and the forward has no previous criminal convictions.

Messi's father Jorge, also found guilty in the original proceedings, saw his sentence reduced from 21 months to 15 due to his co-operation in the case.

Jorge made a voluntary corrective €5m payment in August 2013 on behalf of the Messis, a figure that was equal to the amount of tax allegedly unpaid, plus interest.

The original Barcelona court which handed down the initial verdict will now see the case return to it.

During the trial in 2016, Messi consistently denied any involvement, insisting his focus was only ever on playing football.