Barcelona are worried that Lionel Messi is going to leave the club following his conviction for tax fraud last week.
That's according to the club's president Javier Tebas, who has admitted that in the aftermath of Messi being handed a large fine and 21-month prison sentence, the Argentinian might look to move to greener pastures in order to start afresh.
According to the Express, Tebas originally tried to downplay the recent sentencing that Messi received while speaking at a European Parliament event on match-fixing in sport, before he then confessed that he's "afraid" that the Argentinian will one day leave the Nou Camp.
Football transfer rumours: Chelsea hold talks with Lionel Messi? https://t.co/8AsxAXV8sp"It's not so serious," Tebas began, before he added, "We're dealing with an issue of legal structures that have been misused. I don't think Messi is a criminal, he opted for risky tax structure and the Supremer Court will make changes."
— The Guardian (@guardian) July 7, 2016
Tebas then explained, "Messi has paid more than (£135 million) to the state, and that money has been used on hospitals and roads."
It was at this point that Tebas then admitted that he's concerned that Messi would one day decide to leave Barcelona, as he added, "Of course I'm afraid (that he may leave). The LFP (Spanish football league) doesn't believe he's guilty and we're delighted to have him."
As you would expect, since Lionel Messi is widely regarded as the best footballer in the world, Barcelona don't want to sell the Argentinian. But Jorge Messi, Lionel's father, who also works as his manager, has, according to The Sun, approached Chelsea about a possible transfer.
Chelsea, who are bank-rolled by Russian multi-billionaire Roman Abramovich, have made it clear that they would be more than interested in purchasing Lionel Messi, if he or the club ever decided that it was best for him to leave.
The publication also added that Roman Abramovich and Jorge Messi are believed to have met on the Russian's personal super yacht, the Eclipse. This meeting is thought to have taken place at some point over the last 10 days.
Just to give you an indication of Abramovich's wealth, the Eclipse is the second largest yacht in the world and it's worth around $2 billion.
Meanwhile Manchester City and their new manager, Pep Guardiola, who coached Messi at Barcelona during the Spanish club's most successful period, would more than likely be interested in trying to acquire the five time Ballon d'Or winner, too.
It's been a summer to forget for Lionel Messi. While he was an integral part of Barcelona winning yet another La Liga title in May, Messi lost his third final with Argentina in three seasons. What made it even more brutal for the 29-year-old was that he missed one of the penalties in the decisive penalty shoot-out, which resulted in Chile winning the Copa America championship.
After the match, Lionel Messi decided to retire from the Argentinian national team, which instantly led to cries of despair from fans of the side.
Neymar backs his 'idol' Lionel Messi to return to international football. pic.twitter.com/VJ8SW2vZNDEven Neymar, who even though he plays alongside Messi at Barcelona, and is the key member of the Brazilian national team, insisted that his retirement is disastrous for the game.
— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) July 9, 2016
"I respect his decisions," Neymar explained to Marca, via ESPN. "But football without Messi isn't football, it's hard to imagine it without him. If you like football at all, then you can't help but admire Messi and everything he's achieved for Argentina and Barcelona."
[Image via Getty Images/Elsa]