Barcelona: Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has said he considered leaving the club when was investigated for tax fraud in 2013, saying he felt “badly treated” by Spain.
Messi, who has been at Barcelona since he was 13 and is their all-time top scorer, was found guilty in 2016 along with his father Jorge of defrauding the Spanish government of 4.2 million euros between 2007 and 2009 over income earned from image rights.
He was first investigated in 2013, beginning a spate of tax fraud cases against top footballers in Spain including Cristiano Ronaldo, Javier Mascherano and Marcelo.
“Sincerely, at that time, I thought about leaving,” Messi told Barcelona-based radio station RAC1. “Not because of Barcelona but because I wanted to leave Spain, I felt very badly treated and I didn’t want to stay here any longer. I had my doors open to many clubs but I never got an official offer because everyone knew I really wanted to stay. This situation went way beyond my feelings for Barca.”