Soccer

Lionel Messi: Brexit threatened Argentine’s ability to travel to UK

Lionel Messi 'wanted to stay' says Barcelona president

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Messi’s long and successful career at Barcelona appears to be at an end after the club announced last night that he will not be playing at Camp Nou next season. The Argentine star had already left the club having become a free agent on July 1, but Barcelona were in talks with their prized asset to renew his contract ahead of the upcoming season. But talks have broken down, with the Catalan club claiming last night that “financial and structural obstacles” made it impossible for a new deal to be agreed.

With Messi’s future now uncertain, Paris Saint Germain (PSG) have reportedly contacted the six-time Ballon d’or winner’s representatives to explore whether signing him may be possible.

English club Manchester City were also thrown into the mix as potential suitors, having also expressed interest in Messi last summer amid a huge fallout between the player and his former club.

While many would love to see Messi playing in England, a lawyer once warned that player’s ability to travel to the UK could be threatened because of Brexit.

Immigration lawyer Andrew Osbourne of firm, Lewis Silkin, told The Athletic he and his colleagues were training several clubs in 2019 to deal with the challenges Brexit threatened to pose.

He said: “There is a specific point around European games. If you are an EU citizen with a criminal conviction, you can travel to the UK, as long as you are not deemed to be a threat to national security.

“If you are not an EU citizen and have a conviction or prison sentence imposed — even if suspended — you are banned from coming to the UK.

“There are a number of very famous footballers with convictions and suspended sentences for tax evasion. They, thus far, have not had to worry as they have EU passports.

“But post-Brexit, they potentially may not be able to enter the country (as they will be treated like non-EU nationals).

“Anyone with a prison sentence of any sort, the starting point is you are not allowed in.

“This could provide disruption to Champions League squads and also whether they (UEFA) will play finals in England if players potentially may not be able to come in.

“Clubs will need to take steps.”

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Messi, an EU citizen thanks to his duel Spanish-Argentine passport, was named as a player vulnerable to these changes given he was convicted for tax fraud and was handed a 21 month suspended prison sentence by the Spanish courts.

However, it was reported at the time that the the Home Office would grant exemptions.

In October 2020, the Government announced changes to its post-Brexit policy, meaning those sentenced to more than a year in jail would be banned from entering the UK.

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