Lionel Messi's lawyers have issued a statement on Thursday (7 July) to confirm they are going to make an appeal after the Barcelona star and his father were both handed 21-month prison sentences over tax fraud on Wednesday.
Messi's lawyers insisted that the sentence "is not correct" and are convinced that the Supreme Court of Spain will rule in favour of the Ballon D'or winner.
Messi and his father were convicted for avoiding €4.1m (£3.5m, $4.5m) in tax on earnings, using off-shore companies located in Belize and Uruguay between 2007 and 2009.
The Barcelona ace paid the Spanish authorities a voluntary corrective payment of around €5m after being formally charged in 2013, but speaking in court on 2 June he denied any knowledge of the accusations laid against him, claiming he signed documents without reading them as he trusted his father and the lawyers responsible for managing his finances.
The government prosecution service asked for the absolution of the star but state lawyers decided to continue the case by requesting a prison sentence because they understand that Messi is responsible for the fraud, regardless of whether or not he was aware of what he was signing.
On 7 June, the Barcelona High Court handed a fine and a 21-month prison sentence to both Messi and his father. The pair are not expected to serve any time in jail because in Spain, first offenders with a sentence under two years have the incarceration suspended.
However, as experts in Spanish law explained to IBTimes UK following the sentence, Messi would be at risk of serving jail time should he commit even a minor crime during the suspension period.
Messi's lawyers, through his company 'Leo Messi Management', have confirmed their intentions to appeal after Barcelona also stated that the club will give its full support to the player during the process.
The statement released by Sport said: "The sentence is not correct. But it centres the debate in a way that seems clear to us that the appeal that will be lodged will be concluded in the defence team's favour. The sentence imposes an almost symbolic sanction (seven months for each tax crime), given that the quantity sought by the tax agency had already been paid."
The lawyers added that "most of the arguments on which the sentence centres the debate are precisely those that we are convinced should lead to the absolution [of the accused], therefore the appeal has a good chance of prospering."
The Supreme Court is now expected to evaluate the appeal and reports in Spain indicate that the resolution could take a year.
In this sense the lawyer's statement added "the most recent decisions of the Supreme Court in matters relating to the case that occupies us, seem to side with the theses of the defence, and this will be mentioned in the appeal."
They also claimed that "having paid the amounts that the tax agency said were owed to them, it was never understood why the agency itself was so obstinate in maintaining the accusations."
The lawyers emphasise that both Lionel and Jorge "were conscious of their tax obligations and precisely for that reason they attended a specialist office dealing in tax for sporting figures". However they say "it is obvious that the tribunal felt they were not correctly advised".
They are confident that the sentence following the appeal being heard will "show that Lionel behaved correctly at all times, just like his father", and that he even paid amounts to the public tax office "that he could have disputed, but were paid in full immediately as both the footballer and his father are exemplary citizens and Lionel, who is the public figure, not only shows that on the pitch, but off it too."