Lionel Messi has revealed that he considered leaving FC Barcelona in the post-Guardiola period after his problems with the Spanish tax office around 2013-2014.
Ultimately the Argentine star was found guilty of tax fraud and avoided a 21-month prison sentence by paying a fine of €252,000, equivalent to €400 for every day of the sentence he was given.
The Barcelona all-time top goalscorer, along with his father Jorge, was found to have defrauded the tax office of €4.1 million between 2007 and 2009. In August 2013, Messi paid a voluntary €5 million ‘corrective payment’, the sum of the alleged unpaid tax plus interest.
In an interview with Catalan radio station RAC1 published on Wednesday morning, the footballer admitted these were the ‘worst moments’ of his career, which also coincided with an injury that kept him off the field.
‘It was very difficult for me and my family because a lot of people didn’t know what was really going on. They heard things and they spoke. A sector of the press also contributed to that,’ he explained to broadcast journalist Jordi Basté.
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‘They were angry with me. At that time I had in mind to get away, not because I wanted to leave Barça, but to leave Spain. I felt very mistreated and didn’t want to be here anymore,’ he explained.
‘I could have gone to many teams, although there was never an official offer because everyone knew I wanted to continue at Barça. But in that case, it was a situation that went beyond what I felt for this club. It was for a personal issue.’
At the moment, Messi’s contract situation means that he can leave Barcelona for free in the summer, yet his intention is to stay put and continue at the club of his life. ‘If they want me, obviously I’d be delighted to stay. I’ll say it again: my idea has always been to stay here, nothing has changed.’
‘First of all, for how I am at this club, but also for my family. I would not like to break up the friendships my children have made and break the circle of people around them. I know what it means, I lived it myself in the first person, and I would not like them to go through the same thing. We value this very much.’
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