Barcelona star Lionel Messi and his father have both been given a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud, according to Spanish publication El Periodico. However, the pair are not expected to serve any time in jail due to Spanish laws regarding non-violent crimes, where prison sentences under two years do not require any incarceration.

The five-time Ballon d'Or and his father appeared in court on 2 June having being accused of avoiding €4.1m (£3.5m, $4.5m) in tax on the Barcelona's star's earnings by using off-shore companies located in Belize and Uruguay between 2007 and 2009.

They already paid the Spanish authorities a voluntary corrective payment of around €5m after being formally charged in 2013, but state lawyers decided to continue the case by requesting a prison sentence.

Messi himself has denied, in court, any knowledge of the attempts to avoid paying taxing, claiming that he signed documents without reading as he trusted his father and the lawyers responsible for managing his finances.

His father also denied any wrongdoing, adding: "I understand these laws as much as I understand Chinese. I didn't have any knowledge of the laws and simply said 'yes' or 'no' to the proposals presented to me. My intention was to make life easier for my son, to accompany him and to allow him to focus on football. Eventually, we needed legal and accounting help."

But authorities in Barcelona have decided to hand the Argentine and his father a 21-month prison sentence.

Messi's teammate, Javier Mascherano, also received a one-year prison sentence for a similar tax case last year. However, as with Messi, the former Liverpool star served no jail time due to Spanish statutes on non-violent crimes.

This news follows Messi announcing his retirement from international football after Argentina's loss to Chile in the final of the Copa America on 27 June.

Lionel messi
Lionel Messi and his father appeared in court last month. Getty