Lionel Messi admits he wanted to leave Barcelona but now intends to finish career at the club

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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”.

Messi says there is no rift with Antoine Griezmann.

Messi says there is no rift with Antoine Griezmann.

“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 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.

Messi expected Neymar to join Real Madrid in the summer.

Messi expected Neymar to join Real Madrid in the summer.

“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.”

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 because I thought he wanted to leave,” Messi said.

The Argentine said Valverde is loved by Barca's players.

The Argentine said Valverde is loved by Barca’s players.

“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.”

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WATCH: New Cirque du Solei show inspired by Barcelona icon Lionel Messi set to premiere

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A new show inspired by football star Lionel Messi is set to premiere in Barcelona in a week’s time.

Canadian theatre company Cirque du Soleil previewed the show on Thursday and plan to tour the world with the production in 2020.

‘MESSI 10 by Cirque du Soleil’, as the show is known, aims to bridge the worlds of football and circus in a display of daring and physical athleticism featuring 46 performers.

The Argentine star said it was “crazy and incredible” that a show had been created to honour his achievements.










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Barcelona's Lionel Messi reiterates desire to finish career in Argentina

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Lionel Messi has reiterated a desire to finish his career in his native Argentina and reflected on a “painful” 2018/19 campaign that saw Barcelona crowned champions of Spain but miss out on the treble in a frustrating finish to the season.

Messi collected The Best FIFA Men’s Player award for the first time in Milan on Monday night, the sixth time he has been recognised by world football’s governing body as the player of the year, following wins in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

The 32-year-old star beat old foe Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk to the top prize, and revealed after that it remains his desire to bring the curtain down on a glittering career with Newell’s Old Boys, the team based in Messi’s home town of Rosario.

Messi joined the club in 1994 as a six-year-old and spent six years with the club before Barcelona beckoned him.

And asked if he was thinking of ending his career back in Argentina, Messi told the FIFA website: “Yes. That’s what I’ve always said, haven’t I?

“It’s a childhood dream of mine to play in the Newell’s shirt, though I don’t know if I can make it happen. It’s not just down to me, though. I’ve got three children.”

Messi beat Ronaldo to the Best Player award.

Messi beat Ronaldo to the Best Player award.

The mercurial forward, who recently returned to the Barca first-team fold following an injury-plagued summer and start to the season, spoke on a wide variety of topics. This included reflecting on a shambolic end to 2018/19 for Barca in which the Catalan giants threw away a 3-0 lead in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool to lose 4-0 at Anfield and 4-3 overall.

“It was strange,” he said, speaking of his season.

“We were having a fantastic season as a team and then one match changed it all (Liverpool). It was such a massive disappointment that we just didn’t attach any importance to the league and we didn’t prepare properly for the Copa del Rey final (Barca were beaten 2-1 by Valencia).

“That’s how big a blow it was for us. That one game left its mark on a season that had been perfect up to then. We were so close to making another Champions League final, but it ended up being a painful campaign for us.

“I’m very happy to receive this award. Like I always say, though, individual awards are secondary to me because it’s the team that counts.”

He also spoke about perennial rival Ronaldo, once of Real Madrid and now at Juventus. The pair shared 10 Ballon d’Or titles between them from 2008-17 – winning five each – which sparked a decade-long debate, one that still rages, about who was Europe’s best player.

And even though rumour persists that the two do not like each other, Messi insists the rivalry is only confined to the pitch.

“Because of the big sporting rivalry that’s developed between us over the last few years, because one us played for Barcelona and the other for [Real] Madrid, and because we won individual awards,” Messi added when asked why people are surprised when they see the pair getting along together.

Messi had high praise for Ansu Fati.

Messi had high praise for Ansu Fati.

“People perhaps think the rivalry goes beyond football, but it doesn’t. We both want what’s best for our teams and neither of us like losing. It’s something we don’t accept. That’s why there’s that competitiveness between us. The important thing is that it stays there, out on the pitch.”

Messi also had warm words for Brazilian superstar and former team-mate Ronaldinho, as well as ex-Barca coach Frank Rijkaard, for the way they helped nurture him when he first arrived at the Camp Nou. And he hopes he can act as a mentor to exciting Blaugrana talent Ansu Fati, who has shone in the early weeks of the new campaign.

“I really like him and I try to help and support him,” added Messi, scorer of 603 goals in 689 Barca appearances.

“He’s an amazing player and he’s got what it takes to succeed. But if I look at it through my eyes, I’d like them to bring him on gradually, like they did with me when I started, taking things nice and easy and without putting pressure on him.

“You have to remember that he’s only 16. I hope he keeps on enjoying it and that all the fuss around him doesn’t have a negative impact on him because he has the quality to become one of the best.”

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