La Liga president Javier Tebas admits Lionel Messi’s confession that he considered leaving his beloved Barcelona “scared” him.
Tebas was not the only one likely caught by surprise earlier this week when Messi announced he almost quit Barcelona in 2013.
The Argentine was referring to his infamous tax scandal with the Spanish government six years ago. The state accused both Messi and his father, Jorge, of defrauding Spain of €4.1m between 2007 and 2009.
Therefore, the government handed Barcelona’s leading talisman a 21-month prison sentence. Although he managed to reduce the sentence to a mere €252,000 fine in the end.
But the damage was already done, with Messi confirming in an interview with RAC1 it almost led him to leave La Liga. Ultimately, though, he remained loyal to Barcelona and remains a one-club man to this day.
“We were never scared because we didn’t know what he was thinking,” Tebas told reporters on Messi’s admission.
“With [this week’s] interview, I got scared and [then] I was relieved to see that, just as well, he decided to stay. In this low moment, he decided to continue.
“I want to thank Messi for continuing in our league. If he feels down again, he shouldn’t have any doubts that we will support him and call him, that we will keep supporting him.”
On the Spanish government’s treatment of Messi, Tebas said: “I don’t think there was cruelty, but they were unfair with him as a physical person.
“It’s clear that he didn’t sign or didn’t read everything. They would tell him where to sign and he would do it.
“I don’t read all the La Liga contracts otherwise I’d be there all day. I’m convinced that it was an administrative issue and not criminal.”
Messi has managed 420 goals and 170 assists in 455 La Liga appearances for Barcelona.