A Barcelona spokesperson has defended the club’s social media campaign in support of Lionel Messi after the forward received a 21-month jail sentence from a Spanish court for being found guilty of fiscal fraud.
In addition to the sentence – Messi is unlikely to spend any time in prison as any sentence of less than two years for non-violent offences can be served under probation according to Spanish law – the Argentinian was fined €2million for three counts of tax fraud, though he will appeal his conviction at the Supreme Court.
Barca subsequently set up a social media campaign for fans to back Messi, a move that drew criticism.
However, Josep Vives claims the 29-year-old has been treated unfairly and defended the club’s commitment to showing solidarity with their talisman.
“Messi is being treated unfairly and the club is taking a position to defend him. Our conscience is clear and we will not back down,” said spokesperson Vives.
“We are talking about Messi, a lad who was 19 years of age when he signed those contracts and it has been demonstrated that he did not know how it worked at that moment.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 10, 2016
“He focused on playing football and signed contracts based on the trust placed in financial advisors, who work for him, looking after his earnings.
“The Finance Ministry, who defend people’s wellbeing, do not accuse Messi because they understand there is no legal basis to accuse him.
“They do it because they are convinced that there is no legal case against Messi. Thus, they maintain the legal position of the state in the name of the Tax Office and that in other similar cases it turns out that another criteria has been applied to that of Messi.
“That is not open to interpretation, these are empirical, objective facts. And here is where the club believes the injustice begins.
“There have been other famous figures who have not been through the same situation as Messi. That disdain we do not want for any fan, member or Messi either.
“For that reason we have launched the campaign and we will go beyond that because it is just and we will support Messi in any action he takes from now on. We believe in this.”