Lionel Messi has confessed he considered leaving Barcelona in the midst of his trial on tax irregularities due to ‘mistreatment’.
Three years ago, the Argentine star was found guilty, alongside his father, of defrauding the tax authorities in Spain of €4.1m between 2007 and 2009.
That process began a series of investigations into high-profile football stars in the country who were found, with Messi given a heavy fine and sanctioned with a two-year suspended prison sentence in the nation.
“The most difficult period was between 2013 and 2014 when the problems came up with the Spanish tax authorities, that was tough on me and my family,” Messi confirmed in an interview with Catalan Radio Rac 1.
“It was so tough because I was the first (high-profile footballer) to go through that process, it felt like by being very thorough and tough with me, they would then do the same for all the footballers.
“That was when I thought about leaving Barcelona, not because I wanted to leave the club but I wanted to leave Spain – I felt that I was being mistreated and I did not want to stay there.
“There were options to go to other clubs but ultimately people knew of my affection for Barcelona – my club, my home and everything it meant.
“The only positive things about the timing was that my children were young enough not to really notice what was going on.
“If Barcelona want to keep me (for the rest of his career) then I will stay, the situation has never changed and I want to finish here – both in terms of my career and personal life.
“You can never rule out anything happening, but that is what I have in my head.
“It has always been easy to sort out my future, and even though I have not spoken to the club president since the loss at Liverpool (in the Champions League in April), I do not foresee any issues.”
The 32-year-old has starred for the Catalan giants across 16 successive seasons and has scored a remarkable 604 goals – a club record – in 692 appearances for the team.
Messi has won an incredible 34 trophies with the Blaugrana including 10 La Liga titles, four Champions League crowns and six Copa del Reys.