Lionel Messi’s 2013 Tax Fraud Ordeal: A Turning Point in His Glorious Barcelona Career

Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s iconic captain and eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, has opened up about a tumultuous period in his career when he contemplated leaving the club.

The revelation comes in the wake of his 2013 tax fraud investigation, which left him feeling deeply unsettled.

Barcelona's captain Lionel Messi admits he wanted to leave the club after being found guilty of defrauding tax authorities in 2014. @Sky Sports

The Argentina international, who has been the team’s top scorer since he was 13, claimed that he was handled “badly” by Spain during his 2013 tax fraud investigation.

In 2016, he and his father Jorge were found guilty of cheating the Spanish government of €4.2 million in image rights payments between 2007 and 2009.

Messi received a term of 21 months in prison as well as a €2 million fine. Nevertheless, he avoided prison time by exchanging his sentence for a fine of €250,000. In Spain, offenders who have never been convicted of a crime before are allowed to spend any sentence that is less than two years on probation.

He was first the subject of an investigation in 2013, when he started a string of tax fraud lawsuits against prominent Spanish football players, such as Marcelo, Javier Mascherano, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

In an interview that aired on Wednesday, Messi said, “Sincerely, at that time, I thought about leaving,” to radio station RAC1 in Barcelona.

“I wanted to leave Spain because I felt extremely poorly treated and I didn’t want to be here any longer, not because of Barcelona.

“I invited myself to a lot of clubs, but since everyone knew I wanted to stay, I never received a formal offer. This circumstance much exceeded my emotions towards Barcelona.”

Also Read: Lionel Messi’s Iconic Napkin Sells for $965,000 at Auction: Moments of Glory

Messi also hinted that when Spain’s economic crisis struck, the country’s tax authorities used him as an example and began to crack down on tax evasion.

“They were very harsh on me because I was the first. They used me as an example to demonstrate how things would work out for everyone. Everything that was going on at the time made it difficult, he added.

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