Lionel Messi has admitted that he contemplated a departure from Barcelona in 2014 after he and his father were charged with tax fraud by the Spanish government.
The 32-year-old was alleged to have defrauded Spain of £2.95m between 2007 and 2009 and was eventually found guilty five years ago, leading the Argentine to consider quitting Barca at the time.
Why was Messi charged with tax fraud? Five things to know…
- In 2014 Messi was charged with tax fraud by the Spanish government.
- Messi was accused of having used tax havens to hide earnings from image rights, believed to be around £2.95m.
- The timeframe in question was between 2007 and 2009, with Messi eventually being found guilty in 2014.
- He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and fined £1.8m, though his prison time was eventually revised to a £223,000 fine in July 2017.
- Messi has now explained how he thought about leaving Barca at the time.
However, it was not a sentimental allegiance to the Catalan club that kept Messi at the Camp Nou, but rather a lack of offers from elsewhere, which Messi has now discussed in detail.
Speaking in an interview with RAC1, he said: “I had it in my mind to leave at that time, not to leave Barcelona but to leave Spain.
“I felt that I was being mistreated and did not want to be here anymore.
“I had the door opened by many clubs but I never had an official offer because everyone knew of my previous desire to continue in Barcelona. The feeling I had went beyond what I felt for this club.
“There was a time when I ended up tired by a lot of circumstances, it has happened several times, especially in 2013 and 2014, with the problems with the treasury and everything that came out.
“It was difficult for me and my family, many people did not know what I was going through and I heard a sector of the press helped to make this happen.”
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“I will end my career here”
Since making his debut in November 2003, Messi has scored 604 goals in 692 matches, and those numbers look set to increase considerably after the South American magician went on to explain how he wants to finish his career as a one-club man.
He added: “Obviously I will stay if you love me. I am delighted and my idea is to stay here – nothing has changed that at all. It is increasingly clear that I will end my career here.
“It is my idea and that of my family, first for how I am and what I feel for the club and the city.
“I would not like to change the friendships of the children or their social circle, I would not like this to break. I had to live with it and I do not want it to happen to them.”