Lionel Messi and Jorge Messi have recently been pronounced guilty of tax fraud, and have been sentenced to 21 months in jail. Chelsea have now made moves to ensure they would be in pole position to sign the Argentine should he choose to leave Spain.

The Argentine striker and his father have been sentenced to 21 months in jail for using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay to conceal the earnings made from the former’s image rights. In addition to the sentence, Messi was fined €1.7 million and his father €1.3 million for three counts of tax fraud stretching for a period between 2007 and 2009.

The pair will not be spending any time in prison, as Spanish law allows any sentence under 2 years to be spent under probation instead of in jail. Barcelona have also extended their support to the 29-year-old striker and his father.

However, the fact remains that the sentence could have a significant mental effect on Messi. The striker is now believed to be resentful towards Barcelona and considers that they could have been a lot more supportive throughout the case. Messi is the most sought after player in the world and all of the top European clubs would queue up to sign him should he consider a move away from the Camp Nou.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 02: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona and his father Jorge Horacio Messi seen inside the court during the third day of the trial on June 2, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Messi, who manages his financial affairs, are accused of defrauding the Spanish Tax Agency of 4.1 million Euros ($4.6 million, £3.2 million) by using companies based in tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights during years 2007 to 2009. (Photo by Alberto Estevez - Pool/Getty Images)

BARCELONA, SPAIN – JUNE 02: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona and his father Jorge Horacio Messi seen inside the court during the third day of the trial on June 2, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Messi, who manages his financial affairs, are accused of defrauding the Spanish Tax Agency of 4.1 million Euros ($4.6 million, £3.2 million) by using companies based in tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights during years 2007 to 2009. (Photo by Alberto Estevez – Pool/Getty Images)

Premier League giants Chelsea have taken a step in that regard, as club owner Roman Abramovich has reportedly met with Messi’s father on his private yacht, according to the Sun. The report states that the aim of the meeting was to ensure that Chelsea would be given first preference should Messi choose to leave Barcelona. The Blues’ hierarchy have been following the Messi tax fraud case and are hoping that the recent verdict helps them achieve their ultimate objective.

Lionel Messi’s current contract with Barca ends in 2018. The Argentine is valued at €120 million by Transfermarkt, and that should be the least Barcelona would demand for the striker. He is considered by many to be the best player in the world at the moment and has been pivotal in the Blaugrana’s success this past decade.

Chelsea are one of the biggest spenders in Europe and have the funds to make the transfer happen. However, it now remains to be seen if Messi is influenced by the jail sentence, and decides to seek greener pastures outside of Spain.

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