Barcelona Javier Mascherano opts to delay prison term for two years

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano's one-year prison sentence for not properly paying his taxes in Spain was delayed for a two-year span after his legal team rejected the option to pay a new €280,000 ($312,000) fine, which they considered excessive.

The Barcelona court agreed to delay the sentence for two years, according to media reports.

The Argentina international's lawyers had initially requested that the prison sentence be replaced by another fine. However, Mascherano's lawyers had initially argued without success that the fine be just €21,600.

Mascherano had been fined nearly €800,000 (about $850,000) last month during his previous court appearance and was prevented from receiving any tax benefits for a year.

The 31-year-old's sentencing comes at the heels of a planned summer tax fraud trial for his teammate and compatriot Lionel Messi. Barcelona forward Neymar was also in court this week testifying in the probe of his transfer from Santos to the Catalan club.

Also on Friday, a federal judge in Brazil dismissed a new case filed on Jan. 27 against Neymar for tax fraud. The judge ruled that the current IRS administrative probe was sufficient.

Mascherano's sentencing came nearly three months after he 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.