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Barcelona express Messi support after lost appeal

Barcelona have expressed their support for Lionel Messi following the Spanish Supreme Court's decision to reject his appeal against a suspended 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud.

The Argentina international was handed the jail term last July after being found guilty – alongside his father Jorge – of three counts of tax fraud relating to earnings from image rights which was deemed to have defrauded Spain of €4.1million between 2007 and 2009.

Messi's appeal against the verdict has now been turned down, but Barcelona stick by their star player and his family.

"The club reiterates, once again, its full support for Leo Messi, his father Jorge Messi, and his family," spokesman Josep Vives said.

"Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu contacted the player's family to communicate this support.

"The family was very grateful, not only for the gesture, but also for the support the player and his family have received from the club throughout this process.

"The club will continue to stand with Leo Messi, his father, and his family."

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.

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