According to reports in Spain, Lionel Messi could quit Barcelona because the Spanish tax authorities continue to pursue him.
Messi, considered by some as the best footballer ever, is facing jail time despite agreeing to pay a €5million settlement earlier this year. Spanish law dictates that anyone who has more than €120,000 in undeclared income automatically faces a jail sentence, although this is generally waived if the individual agrees to pay.
Messi was accused of hiding €4.1m earned from image rights in companies in Belize and Uruguay but, despite making the €5m settlement, the authorities continue to hound him.
A sources close to the 27-year-old star is quoted in Spanish newspaper El Confidencial as saying: “there are other elite sportspeople who have tax problems and they’ve all been settled administratively, as was the case with Real Madrid players Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas and tennis star Rafa Nadal.
“Messi is the only one who faces legal proceedings that could end with him going to jail. He’s fed up with Spain and that’s why he wants to leave.”
The same source says that Messi paid €52m in income tax and fines and “that should be that” but as the authorities have continued to look at him, “who knows where it will end”. There are even suggestions that the situation is an anti-Catalan conspiracy, with Real Madrid players not facing the same level of scrutiny.
Messi added fuel to the possibility of his leaving the Nou Camp by telling Argentine paper Ole: “I live the present. All I am thinking about is making this a great year and winning titles, and that’s it. “After that, we’ll see,” he added.