Lionel Messi could go down as the greatest one-club player to have graced the game, knowing no other team but Barcelona. However, according to the Argentine, he came close to leaving the club he joined in 2001.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner gave a candid interview to RAC1 in which he revealed he desired an exit back in 2014. His reason for wanting out was due to the tax evasion charges he faced back then.
The Argentine was accused of using tax havens to hide earning made from his image rights and defraud the Spanish government of roughly $4.5M (€4.1M) between 2007 and 2009. The iconic forward was eventually found guilty, was given a 21-month suspended sentence, and was fined $288,000.
Leo has now revealed that he was ready to leave Spain once the charges surfaced. La Pulga even admitted that he talked with several clubs but a lack of concrete offers resulted in him staying.
"I had it in my mind to leave at that time, not to leave Barcelona but to leave Spain," Messi told RAC1. "I felt that I was being mistreated and did not want to be here anymore.
"I had the door opened by many clubs but I never had an official offer because everyone knew of my previous desire to continue in Barcelona. The feeling I had gone beyond what I felt for this club.
"There was a time when I ended up tired by a lot of circumstances, it has happened several times, especially in 2013 and 2014, with the problems with the treasury and everything that came out. It was difficult for me and my family, many people did not know what I was going through and I heard a sector of the press helped to make this happen."
Fortunately for the Blaugrana, La Pulga remained in Catalonia and has continued to dominate with his Spanish employers. Nonetheless, fresh concerns regarding his future have emerged after it was revealed a clause in his deal that allows him to leave Camp Nou for free will kick in this summer.
Despite this, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner insists he has no desire to leave the Spanish champions. "Obviously I will stay if you love me. I am delighted and my idea is to stay here - nothing has changed that at all. It is increasingly clear that I will end my career here. It is my idea and that of my family, first for how I am and what I feel for the club and the city,” he added.