La Liga president Javier Tebas defends Lionel Messi over tax fraud case in Spain

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Messi was last week found guilty of evading tax and handed a R32-million fine as well as a 21-month suspended prison sentence by a Spanish court.

Reports in Spain suggest prosecutors are unlikely to appeal the sentence, however, Messi's legal team could take their defence to the Supreme Court.

When asked for his views on the situation of the four-time Ballon d'Or winner continuing to play in the country despite his conviction, Tebas voiced his full backing of the 29-year-old.

"I've already spoken about Messi - I don't consider him a criminal and I'm happy with him staying in LaLiga," he said at a sponsor event.

"There are still options for the player and we have to wait for the final decision."