According to unnamed sources cited by Spanish newspaper El Confidencial, Lionel Messi may leave Barcelona due to his treatment by Spain’s tax authorities. The paper quotes sources close to the Barca striker 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 Rafael 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.”
Last year, Messi and his father were accused of concealing 4.1 million euros ($5.1 million) from image rights in shell companies in Belize and Uruguay. According to the Guardian, anyone who has more than 120,000 euros ($148,000) in undeclared income earned in Spain automatically faces a jail sentence, but this is generally waived if the offender agrees to pay. Messi has already paid a 5 million euro ($6.2 million) settlement but the authorities have decided to force the Argentine to stand trial, with the possibility of going to prison.
The sources noted that Messi paid 52 million euros ($64.4 million) in income tax and fines over the course of a year “and that should be that.” They added that Messi is a victim of double standards. “They started with his image rights, then his signing fee -- who knows where it will end,” they said.
Earlier this week, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner hinted in an interview with Argentine paper Ole that he could leave Barca in the summer, saying that while he would like to end his career at the club, the situation was difficult and “sometimes things don’t work out as you planned."