Lionel Messi: I wanted to leave Barcelona after tax fraud case, but no one made an offer.
Messi, who has been at Barcelona since he was 13 and is their all-time top scorer, was found guilty in 2016 along with his father Jorge Messi of defrauding the Spanish government of 4.2 million euros ($4.61 million) between 2007 and 2009 over income earned from image rights.
The Argentina international was handed a prison sentence of 21 months and ordered to pay a fine of 2 million euros.
He did not serve any jail time after exchanging his sentence for a fine of 250,000 euros, as in Spain defendants without a previous conviction are permitted to serve any sentence of under two years on probation.
Messi and his father were both found guilty of tax fraud in July 2016 and were handed suspended 21-month prison sentences and the forward ordered to pay a 1.7million Euro fine.
Messi believes his reputation as a one-club player ultimately dissauded clubs from making an approach.
"Sincerely, at that time, I thought about leaving," Messi told Barcelona Radio station RAC1 in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.
"Not because of Barcelona but because I wanted to leave Spain, I felt very badly treated and I didn't want to stay here any longer.
"I had my doors open to many clubs but I never got an official offer because everyone knew I really wanted to stay. This situation went way beyond my feelings for Barca."
Messi added that he felt he was made an example of by the Spanish tax authorities, who stepped up their efforts against tax fraud after Spain's deep economic crisis hit.
"I was the first and that's why they came down so hard on me. They made an example of me and showed that it was going to be like this for everyone. It was tough because of everything that was happening at that time," he said.