Lionel Messi has revealed how he ‘wanted to leave’ Barcelona in 2016 due to the scrutiny on him amid a tax row with the Spanish government.
Messi is the finest player in LaLiga and league chief Javier Tebas has previously admitted he was left ‘scared’ at the idea the Argentine could leave.
Speaking to radio station RAC1, Messi explained how along with his father Jorge he felt he was being ‘mistreated’.
The pair were found guilty of tax fraud and handed a 21-month suspended prison sentence.
‘At that time, with the mess of the treasury, I wanted to leave, not for wanting to leave Barca but wanting to leave Spain,’ Messi told RAC1.
‘I felt that I was being very mistreated and I didn’t want to stay here. I never had an official offer because everyone knew my idea to stay here.
‘It was very difficult for me and my family because people don’t know much about what’s going on.
‘The truth is that it was hard for everything that happened but it is better that my children were small and did not know. It was very difficult for me and my family because people don’t know much about what’s going on.’
The case found that Messi, along with Jorge, was guilty of defrauding the Spanish government of €4.1m (£3.6m) between 2007 and 2009.
A ruling found them guilty of using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights, leading Messi to contemplate his footballing future in the country.
Messi subsequently appealed the verdict in 2017 and it was rejected by Spain’s Supreme Court – instead, it was changed to a £223,000 fine. Jorge’s sentence was also reduced from a 15-month sentence to a €180,000 (£161,000) fine.
Since his feelings of leaving Spain and Barcelona, Messi has remained at the club and now looks destined to finish his career as a one-club man.
He added: ‘First because of how I am in the club, how I feel in the club, then because of the familiar, for how good we are in this city, for my children, for not changing my friendships and I don’t want it broken because I had to live it on my personal level.’