Lionel Messi claims that he felt “attacked” by the Madrid-based media after being charged with tax fraud, and thanked Barcelona for their unwavering support throughout.
Messi and his father were both given suspended jail sentences in 2016, though Messi claimed that he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
He claims that he has been hounded by the media to the brink of depression, and was thankful to the people and the media of Catalonia for standing by him.
“I had a difficult year at the time I had all the trouble with the treasury,” said Messi, quoted in Marca.
“I didn’t quite reach depression, but the way they attacked me, how things about me, my father and the people around me were reported — it was very difficult and I felt very attacked.”
Messi’s rival Cristiano Ronaldo is facing similar charges and is said to be unhappy at not receiving the same support from Real Madrid that Barca gave to Messi.
“I was lucky,” the Argentine admitted. “I had the support of my people, of Barca, of Catalonia and this helped me feel more relaxed.”
Messi believes that there was a smear campaign against him, led by media sources in Madrid, which hurt him professionally and personally.
“I believe that the order to attack me during the difficult period we were going through at the time came from Madrid,” he claimed. “I knew it was like this and it hurt.”
These attacks have not damaged Messi’s form, as he led Barcelona to the La Liga title in 2017/18, scoring more than 40 goals for the ninth consecutive season.