Barcelona's Javier Mascherano likely to avoid jail time in tax case

MADRID -- Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano has been given a one-year prison sentence for not properly paying taxes in Spain, but is not expected to serve any time in jail.

He was also fined nearly €800,000 (about $850,000) on Thursday and has been prevented from receiving any tax benefits for a year.

The prison sentence is expected to be either replaced by another fine of an estimated €21,600 or dismissed entirely.

Argentina international Mascherano posted a lengthy message on social media on Thursday, explaining to his fans that he had been following the exact counsel of his advisers.

He wrote: "I am a professional athlete. I don't have great knowledge about tax and legal matters. That is why I have asked people who do have this technical knowledge to guide and support me because these subjects are very complex.

"Throughout my career, I have been an honest and responsible person. I have shown respect to my teammates, to the clubs I represent and to the countries in which I have lived.

"This situation I am currently in I am taking as yet another life experience, from which I will emerge with strength and calm because I know I am once again within the law.

"I am reserving the right to take action against those who have given me bad counsel and recommended that I take any action that was not correct."

The player spent only a few minutes in court on Thursday as the sentencing was announced.

"The situation is that Javier Mascherano has been sentenced today due to accusations that he has accepted," one of the player's lawyers, David Aineto, said.

"He has been sentenced because of those accusations and he has accepted the verdict of the justice. Now he has to pay the fine and the Mascherano case will be closed."

The judge is expected to decide in the next few days whether the prison sentence will be replaced by a fine or dismissed.

Mascherano's sentencing comes only a day after a Barcelona court set the dates for Lionel Messi's tax fraud trial.

The sentencing came nearly three months after Mascherano had reached a deal with prosecutors and the attorney's office for failing to pay nearly €1.5 million ($1.6m) in taxes for 2011 and 2012.

He has played for Barcelona since 2010 and was accused by Spain's tax office of concealing part of what he earned in image rights.