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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 21 April 2021

Barcelona set up campaign 'in support' of Lionel Messi after prison sentence for tax fraud

‘We want Leo to know that he is not alone’, the Catalan club have said.

Image: Manu Fernandez

IN THE PANTHEON of public relations gaffes, Barcelona have certainly conjured quite a memorable one.

Three days after the club’s star player Lionel Messi was handed a 21-month suspended prison sentence for tax fraud, his employers have outlined plans for a campaign designed to support their embattled attacker.

“Using the hashtag #WeAreAllLeoMessi while posting a photo or message with both hands open, the campaign is encouraging all Barça fans to express their sympathy for the greatest footballer in the world by voicing their unconditional support on social networks”, the club wrote on their official website.

“By making it clear that #WeAreAllMessi, we want Leo to know that he is not alone. All members, supporters clubs, fans, athletes, media and everyone else are invited to participate.”

Last Wednesday, the court in Catalonia found that Messi, along with his father, owed more than €4m in back payments after dodging tax on the player’s image rights by setting up offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay.

Messi told investigators that he was unaware of the tax fraud while his father, Jorge, said a financial advisor told him the strategy was above board.

Because of having no previous convictions and the fact the sentence was less than two years, both Messi and his father avoided a jail sentence but were fined €1.7m and €1.3m respectively.

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Eoin O'Callaghan

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