Messi says he considered leaving Barcelona after tax problem

Barcelona's Lionel Messi, right, shoots the ball next to Sevilla's Ever Banega during Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Sevilla at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Messi scored once in Barcelona's 4-0 victory. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi says he considered leaving Barcelona after being targeted by Spanish tax authorities in the early 2010s.

Messi says in an interview with Catalan radio station RAC1 he felt he wasn’t treated well in Spain and didn’t want to stay in the country after being accused of not paying his taxes properly.

He says it was a very difficult situation for him and his family and hinted that if there was an official offer from another club at the time he might have left.

Messi says he felt he was used as an example by Spanish tax authorities because he was the first top player to be targeted.

Messi’s problems with the Spanish authorities started in the 2013-14 season and he eventually received a suspended 21-month jail sentence after being found guilty of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros (then $4.6 million). Several other players were later accused of wrongdoing by Spanish tax authorities, including former Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi says he wished Ronaldo would have stayed at Real Madrid because his presence was good for the Spanish league and the rivalry with Barcelona.

In Monday’s interview, Messi also reiterated his wish to have Neymar back with the club, and that when former teammate Xavi Hernández decides to coach Barcelona the team will play similarly to how it did under Pep Guardiola.


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