Lionel Messi admits he seriously thought about leaving Barcelona during tax row

Evening Standard Sports 2 months ago

Lionel Messi has admitted he seriously thought about leaving Barcelona.

The Argentine attacker has spent his entire career at the Catalan club and is currently in his 16th season with the first team at Camp Nou, but he has revealed that he came close to walking away due to his treatment during the investigation for tax fraud.

"At that time, with the Hacienda (Spanish tax office) mess, I had it in my head to leave," the 32-year-old told RAC1 in an interview on Wednesday.

"Not because I wanted to leave Barca, but because I wanted to get away from Spain. I felt I was being mistreated and I didn't want to stay here. [But] I never had an official offer because everyone knew that my idea was to carry on here."

Messi was given a 21-month suspended sentence for tax fraud in 2016, but that punishment was later reduced to a fine the following year.

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"There's a moment when you feel tired and exhausted because of a series of circumstances," he said. "I have had several of those, especially in 2013-14, before the problem with Hacienda and with everything that came out.

"It was very difficult for me and for my family because people don't realise much of what is happening, they hear things from others and give their opinion. A sector of the press contributed to it being like that. It's all false and it was seen later on.

"I was the first one and that's why it was so hard. From the moment they showed that they were going after me with everything, they demonstrated that they were going after all the sportsmen and that's how it started.

"Everything was very hard for me, but the best thing was that my children were small and they didn't realise what wa going on."

Despite all that, Messi went on to add that he has no thoughts of leaving Barca now.

"If they want me here, my idea is always to stay," he said. "That has always been the case and nothing has changed."


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