Here is why Lionel Messi will almost certainly play for Barcelona next season despite a 21 month prison sentence

Will Slattery

For one brief moment, the biggest shock in sports history reverberated around the world after it was announced that Lionel Messi and his father had been sentenced to 21 months in jail for tax fraud by a Catalan Court.

There is nothing inaccurate about reporting that sentence, although Spanish law dictates that Messi and his dad are unlikely to ever see the inside of a cell.

In Spain, sentences under two years are almost always suspended if it is a first offence.

As Messi has no previous criminal record, he should avoid spending any time in prison and will likely be ready to start the new season with Barcelona.

The punishment came after claims that Messi failed to pay €4.1m worth of tax on his image rights, following which Messi stood trial for tax fraud.

Interestingly, Dermot Corrigan - a journalist with ESPN - has reported that prosecutors only sought a 21 month sentence for the football star, which falls under the two year range for jail time to be avoided.