La Liga chief Javier Tebas admits he is “afraid” Lionel Messi may leave Barcelona after his recent tax problems with the Spanish state.
Tebas was speaking at an event organised by the European Parliament in Barcelona on the topic of match-fixing and illegal betting in sport, and he was asked for his opinion on Messi’s 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud, amidst fresh reports of talks between the Argentine’s father and Chelsea.
“It’s three counts of seven months, not one count of 21, so it’s not so serious,” he was quoted as saying by AS.
“We’re dealing with an issue of legal structures that have been misused. I don’t think Messi is a criminal, he opted for risky tax structure and the Supreme [Court] will make changes.
“Messi has paid more than €160m to the state, and that money has been used on hospitals and roads.
“Of course I’m afraid [that he may leave]. The LFP doesn’t believe he’s guilty and we’re delighted to have him.
“Still, there is neither persecution nor a black hand against Messi and Barca. The world of sport is being investigated [for tax-related issues].
“[Match-fixing] is the biggest threat to sport. Every day there are five or six sporting events with predetermined outcomes.
“Several players have told me that they’ve rigged games, but then they don’t want to go to court. We must stop this omerta in dressing rooms.
“Although Spanish football is under a degree of control, we’ve reported many games and I know that these complaints have been left in the drawer.
“[The RFEF] won’t investigate them because [Angel Maria] Villar doesn’t believe [match-fixing] exists.”