Barcelona asks fans to support Messi

Barcelona have set up a social media campaign in support of star striker Lionel Messi, who has been found guilty of tax fraud.

A Spanish court sentenced both Messi and his father Jorge to 21 months in jail earlier this week after they were found guilty of defrauding Spain of 4.1m euros from 2007 to 2009.

While neither man is expected to serve jail time for the offence, as sentences of less than two years can be served under probation under the Spanish legal system, they maintain their innocence and have signalled their intent to appeal the decision.

Barcelona have come out in full support of their star player, and have launched a social media campaign urging fans to do the same.

A club statement said: “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.

“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.”

Several fans have already thrown their support behind Messi, using the new hashtag:

Not everyone is taking to the campaign kindly, however, with some questioning the use of the hashtag, considering that the Argentine has just been found guilty of a serious crime: