Messi almost left Barcelona over tax fraud case

Lionel Messi considered leaving Barcelona over tax case.

Lionel Messi has revealed that he almost left Barcelona in 2014 after he and his father were charged with tax fraud.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was alleged to have used tax havens in Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights, and as such defrauded Spain of €4.1 million between 2007 and 2009. Messi was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 21 months in prison and a €2m fine before his prison time was amended to a €252,000 (£223,000/$288,000) fine in July 2017. His father, Jorge, was similarly sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment and a fine of €1.5m, though his prison sentence was reduced on appeal.

Messi has now admitted that, when the charges were originally made, he wanted to leave Spain. He said he spoke to a number of clubs regarding a move away from Camp Nou, though he did not receive any concrete offers.

He told RAC1: “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.

Speculation regarding Messi’s future continues, with the recent revelation that he has a clause in his current contract that would allow him to leave the Spanish champions for free at the end of the season should he so wish.

Lionel Missi with the 2019 Ballon d’Or trophy.

The 32-year-old, though, insists that he wants to see out the remainder of his career with the Blaugrana, for whom he has worn the captain’s armband for the past two seasons. “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.”