Messi says tax problems made him want to leave Barcelona

Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi against Sevilla's Brazilian midfielder Fernando during their Spanish league football match Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 10 October 2019

Messi says tax problems made him want to leave Barcelona

  • Messi and his father Jorge were found guilty of defrauding Spain of €4.1 million in taxes between 2007 and 2009

MADRID: Lionel Messi has admitted he wanted to leave Barcelona when he was under investigation from the Spanish tax authorities but insists now he intends to finish his career at the club.

In an interview with Catalan radio station RAC1, Messi also said he had expected Neymar to sign for Real Madrid last summer after Barca failed to strike an agreement with Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi and his father Jorge were found guilty of defrauding Spain of €4.1 million in taxes between 2007 and 2009, for which they paid close to €10 million and Messi was handed a 21-month suspended prison sentence.

Asked on Tuesday night if he had ever wanted to leave Barcelona, Messi said: “In 2013-14, when I started having the tax problems, it was very difficult for me and my family.”

“My children were young and we had a very bad time. At that time, I had it in mind to leave, not because I wanted to leave Barca but because I wanted to leave Spain. I felt mistreated and I didn’t want to be here anymore.”

The 32-year-old’s current contract expires in 2021 and Messi believes extending his deal “will not be a problem.” 

“Today it is clearer that my idea is to finish here,” Messi said. “For how I am at the club, for what I feel, and for the family and the children and how settled we are in this city. I would not like to disrupt that.

“Of course anything can happen but in principle, the idea is to stay here.”

Messi began playing football aged six for Newell’s Old Boys, the Rosario club he supports in Argentina.

“I always dreamed of being able to play again for Newell’s and to have the experience of playing football in Argentina,” he said.

“But I have already told them that sometimes you have to think about what is best for your family.”

Messi was keen to be reunited with Neymar last summer but Barcelona were unable to agree a fee with PSG.

“I honestly thought at one time, especially in this market, that if he did not come here, he would go to Real Madrid Madrid because I thought he wanted to leave,” Messi said.

“I wanted Ney to come because as a footballer, he is one of the best in the world. He is unpredictable, different and having him in our team would have given us more options.”

Barcelona did sign Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid, despite him rejecting the Catalans the year before. Messi denies suggestions of a rift between him and the Frenchman.

“The first year when we wanted to sign Griezmann, I said he was one of the best and that the best are always welcome,” Messi said. “I have never had problem with him coming. So it’s a lie.”

Messi also offered his support to Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, who has been under pressure after a bumpy start to the season followed the team’s Champions League collapse against Liverpool in May.

“It was not the coach’s fault but it was also not my decision for him to stay,” Messi said. “The club decided Valverde would continue and for me that was a joy, good for stability and he is a coach we support and love.

“If another coach comes, we will be with him. To achieve success, we all have to be united.”

Messi scored his first goal of the season in a 4-0 thrashing of Sevilla on Sunday, after two months spoiled by calf and thigh injuries.

“I’m still a bit short but I’m feeling better,” Messi said. “My legs hurt against Sevilla but it’s what happens when you come back. I’m getting closer.”


Saudi Arabia welcomes return of live international sport with women’s golf events

Updated 1 min 53 sec ago

Saudi Arabia welcomes return of live international sport with women’s golf events

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will welcome international live sport back in November with a world first professional women’s golf week expected to be a landmark event for the Kingdom.

King Abdullah Economic City on the Red Sea Coast will host two elite-level European Ladies Tour golf tournaments in the space of seven days: the $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF which takes place on Nov. 12 to 15 and the $500,000 Saudi Ladies Team International, whichs runs from Nov. 17 until Nov. 19.

Both tournaments have attracted the world’s best golfers, and will be the first time in women’s golf history that professionals – themselves competing in the Kingdom for the first time – will partner with amateurs in the all-new team and individual format for the Saudi Ladies Team International.

The events will mark the return of huge international sporting events to the Kingdom, something Saudi Arabia has become renowned for hosting in recent years as the country aims to inspire its next generation under the ambitions of Saudi Vision 2030, a statement said.

The tournament will take place at Royal Greens Golf Club, above. (Supplied)

Their hosting also reaffirms the Kingdom’s commitment to women’s sport, which comes at a time when many athletes worldwide have seen their endeavours halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we all know the first half of this year has been extremely challenging on businesses, organisations and nations worldwide, with sport affected greatly,” Yasir O. Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation and tournament organiser Golf Saudi, said in the statement.

“However, we are thankful to both PIF and Aramco – who are equally determined to give elite level sport the platform to continue to flourish, both here in Saudi Arabia and abroad, and never more so than now – which makes us proud to be throwing our full weight behind both the Saudi Ladies International and Saudi Ladies Team International.”

Originally planned for March, the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF will be the Ladies European Tour’s debut event in Saudi Arabia and the 2020 Tour’s third highest paying event.

Wales’ Amy Boulden will be taking part in both of November’s events, fresh from her maiden LET win at this month’s Swiss Open.

 “This type of commitment to women’s golf is really amazing to see at this time. It’s given players another massive week to look forward to competing in and allows us to take the game we love to a new country, where we can play on what is a truly incredible golf course with one of the most picturesque views you’ll see on Tour,” Boulden said.

“For Golf Saudi to throw their weight behind two events in one week is a really significant gesture from a country I know is passionate about growing golf, and I can’t wait to get out there playing.”