It is almost unthinkable that Lionel Messi, who has spent 18 long and successful years with his beloved Barcelona, winning everything there is to win in world football, could ever leave the club save for when he finally draws the curtain close on a legendary career.
But astonishingly, it emerged last year that his incredible spell at the Catalan giants could have been cut short in 2017. This amid the fracas of a tax row with Spain’s government, for which the Argentine was eventually handed a 21-month prison sentence on a tax fraud conviction. He and his father, Jorge, were found guilty of defrauding Spain of an estimated €4.1 million between 2007 and 2009.
The sentence was eventually reduced to a fine of €252 000 with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, in a recent interview with RAC1, citing he wanted to leave Spain because of how he felt he was being “mistreated” at the time. “At that time, with the mess of the treasury, I wanted to leave – not for wanting to leave Barca – but wanting to leave Spain,” said LaLiga’s record-goalscorer.
“I felt that I was being very mistreated and I didn’t want to stay here. I never had an official offer because everyone knew my idea was always to stay.” Messi added: “It was very difficult for me and my family because people don’t know much about what’s going on. The truth is that it was hard for everything that happened but it is better that my children were small and did not know.”
Fast-forward to 2020 and the Argentian maestro has no plans of ditching the Catalan giants. Messi, as in countless other instances, said his desire is to close the curtain on his stellar career at the Camp Nou. “Today, my idea, and that of my family is to end it here. Especially because of how I feel as part of the club and also because of how good the [city of Barcelona] is for me and my family.”
As undoubtedly the greatest player in the club’s history, it comes as little or no surprise that Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, wants Messi to stay for the rest of his playing days. “He might even play until he’s 45, who knows?” Bartomeu said, per The Guardian. “We know he’ll play three, four, five years more [or] as many as he wants … [But] I don’t think that day is near … He will stay here with us – he’s a club man!”