Barcelona star Javier Mascherano is potentially heading to prison after being handed a one-year sentence on Thursday for tax evasion charges.

According to Sport, the 31-year-old Argentine was also fined €815,000 after confessing to a pair of tax-related offences.

The publication added: "Mascherano's lawyer, David Aineto, has requested the automatic suspension of the one-year prison sentence and wants it to be replaced by a fine of around €21,000."

The presiding judge is expected to rule on Aineto's offer in the coming days.

While avoiding prison isn't yet guaranteed, many believe the deal will be accepted. 

The current Barca and former Liverpool standout has long been a steady defensive presence on the pitch, and losing him would be a major blow to a Blaugrana team that trails Atletico Madrid by two points for first place in the La Liga standings.

The impact of Mascherano's sentencing stretches far beyond that, though, as it could set a precedent for similar cases moving forward.

Fellow Barca stars Lionel Messi and Neymar are both under investigation for alleged tax fraud as well.

While all cases are different, the judge's decision with regard to Mascherano could offer a glimpse into what will ultimately happen to Messi and Neymar should either or both be found guilty.

There is plenty hanging in the balance for Barcelona right now, and while they may be able to ascend to the top of La Liga without Mascherano due to the talent they possess elsewhere on the squad, a suspended sentence would go a long way toward easing concern when it comes to their other stars as well.

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