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 helpers step up to the tee at first women’s golf tournament

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi helpers step up to the tee at first women’s golf tournament

  • Volunteers will have the chance to step inside the ropes and get up close with the sport’s leading players

JEDDAH: Saudi volunteers will be able to write their names into the history books by helping at the first-ever Saudi Ladies International professional golf tournament.

Competition organizers are looking to recruit hundreds of people to help with the smooth running of the four-day event from March 19-22 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).

Volunteers will have the chance to step inside the ropes and get up close with the sport’s leading players, including Order of Merit winner Beth Allen, three-time Ladies European Tour (LET) winner Carly Booth and Solheim Cup hero Azahara Munoz, as they compete for $1 million in prize money. 

The LET tournament in Saudi Arabia will mark the first time that professional female golfers have played competitively in the country, and comes hot on the heels of last month’s triumphant men’s equivalent, the Saudi International, won by Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.

Online registration is now open for the debut event’s volunteers’ program.

Volunteers will be briefed before the event and receive a tournament uniform to wear while they work.

Marshals, including traveling, static, crossing and transitional positions, will be required for the tournament. Mobile scoreboard operators and walking scorers are among other roles that will offer volunteers a unique insight into the world-class event.

Mike Oliver, event director at Golf Saudi, said: “For the first year of this event, we are offering volunteers a chance to be part of history, working at the first professional women’s golf event to be held in the country.

“Volunteers, from both Saudi Arabia and abroad, will play a key role in helping us deliver a successful inaugural tournament,” he said.

A certificate of service will be presented to volunteers at the completion of the tournament.

As a bonus, volunteers will have their photo taken with the 2020 ladies winner during the prize presentation — a moment that will be seen by a worldwide audience via live broadcasts.