Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo wants to quit the club and leave Spain this summer after being accused of tax evasion, a source confirmed to ESPN FC following multiple reports in Europe.
Ronaldo, A Bola reported on Friday, privately feels upset at the treatment he has received from authorities in Spain and believes he is being made an example of because of his status as a star player.
As a result, he has told Madrid of his desire to leave Spain this summer, the report in the Portuguese newspaper said.
And a source close to Ronaldo confirmed to ESPN FC that Ronaldo would prefer to play in another country rather than deal with what he sees as “persecution” in Spain.
“He is outraged — feels great indignation with all the speculation about, for example, the tax story,” the source said. “And he believes he was unfairly and disproportionately singled out as an example, despite having voluntarily paid [taxes]. He is, in fact, a victim of persecution in Spain and [the situation has] reached its limit with so much injustice.
“So, he is determined to leave Spain, yes. Let’s see what will happen, but he is very, very mad with all these things.”
Earlier this week, a Spanish state prosecutor accused Ronaldo, 32, of failing to pay €14.7 million on image rights earned between 2011 and 2014, saying he used a shell company in the Virgin Islands to “create a screen in order to hide his total income.”
Ronaldo’s agency, Gestifute, released a statement after the accusations saying that no offshore structure for evading taxes was created and stressing that “it is clear the player did not try to evade taxes.”
Spain’s tax authorities have pursued a number of football stars recently. Last summer, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was found guilty of tax evasion and given a suspended 21-month sentence. In December, former Real Madrid players Xabi Alonso, Angel Di Maria and Ricardo Carvalho were all hit with tax charges, while Radamel Falcao has also attracted scrutiny.
Sentences less than two years for first-time offenders in Spain are usually suspended, making the players unlikely to serve jail time. However, if Ronaldo’s case goes to trial, the courts could lean more heavily on him than they did Messi, both because he owes 70 percent more than his Barcelona counterpart, and because he already once attempted to settle his tax situation by paying an extra €5.6m in 2014.
Speaking on Thursday from Portugal’s base in Russia ahead of the Confederations Cup, Ronaldo said that his “conscience is clear” and posted a photograph of himself holding a finger to his lips on Instagram with the caption: “Sometimes the best answer is to be quiet.”
Madrid-based newspaper Marca also reported on Friday that Ronaldo is upset with his current situation and said the European champions are trying to persuade their star, who in November signed a new contract to stay with the club until 2021.
Marca reported that in addition to feeling persecuted by the Spanish authorities, the forward feels he has been treated unfairly by the media and that Madrid have not done enough to support him.
The BBC quoted a source close to Ronaldo as saying: “He feels he’s honest, has good character and did everything OK. He’s very sad and really upset. He doesn’t want to stay in Spain. At this moment, he wants to leave.”
Ronaldo’s boyhood club Sporting Lisbon sent out a lighthearted tweet on Friday inviting him to come back, writing: “Cristiano, all good children return home….are you going to wait a long time?”
Ronaldo has said on several occasions that he would like to retire at Real Madrid. He ended the season scoring two goals as they won the Champions League for the third time in four years.
Under manager Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid also clinched their first La Liga title in five years last season, while the past two campaigns have been the most successful since Ronaldo signed from Manchester United in 2009.
Amid the reports, Portugal teammate Andre Silva on Friday avoided questions on Ronaldo’s future but said the forward is entirely concentrated on the Confederations Cup and taking the competition very seriously.
“The only thing I can say about that is that he is motivated, focused on the national team and encouraging us to win the tournament,” Silva said in a news conference ahead of Sunday’s match against Mexico.
Silva added that Ronaldo is “completely focused on training” and said he is enjoying playing with him.
“It’s a dream [to play with Ronaldo],” Silva said. “It’s an honour to play alongside our captain.”
With Ronaldo reportedly intending to quit Real Madrid, ESPN FC’s Mark Ogden assesses the chances of a Man United return. (0:57)
Reports in Portugal on Friday morning suggesting that Cristiano Ronaldo has decided to leave Real Madrid this summer were quickly picked up by the Spanish press, with this in turn leading the paper that made the claim to run a second story under the headline “A Bola’s report on Cristiano causes alarm bells to ring.”
That, of course, may have been entirely the point. During the summer recess a sensational headline is always handy for generating a few clicks. And an uncredited, online report running to 100 words should always be taken with a pinch of salt large enough to cover a prize-winning bacalao. The A Bola story was based purely on a quote attributed to the Portugal captain in the wake of a fresh slew of accusations about his tax affairs, with the Spanish authorities pursuing a claim of €14.7 million against Ronaldo for alleged offences relating to income generated overseas through his image rights.
Ronaldo has repeatedly maintained his innocence and the remark picked up by the Portuguese tabloid was that he feels “persecuted” by the Spanish inspectors.
In reality, the tax man is just the latest in a long queue of people against whom Ronaldo has taken umbrage. He fired an out-of-character broadside at the Spanish press after Madrid wrapped up the Liga title and has consistently admonished the Bernabeu for whistling at him when the fancy strikes his home crowd.
But there is no smoke without fire and a Portugal training camp is certainly a useful place for a veiled threat to find its way to a sympathetic ear in the press. Ronaldo also knows all the tricks of the trade when it comes to getting his way, as proven by his infamous “I’m not happy” aside in September 2012 which eventually led to a bumper new contract.
The issue may run deeper on this occasion through a combination of matters not aided by the latest probe into his tax affairs, but the latter is hardly anything new for Ronaldo or Spanish football in general. A who’s-who of Liga players to have been accused of some fiscal infraction or another would make a world-beating XI, with plenty of talent to spare on the bench. Ronaldo also signed a new deal last November up to 2021 and while there are clubs who could offer more financially he is hardly struggling to get to the end of the month at the Bernabeu.
If there is any truth behind A Bola’s story it is likely to revolve around the simple dynamics of a footballer’s employment. Ronaldo has little left to achieve at Real Madrid, breaking every scoring record and winning every major club trophy going at least once.
It could be that he is looking to earn a longer-term deal somewhere else down the line, with the huge financial package that would guarantee. Before signing his five-year extension, Ronaldo suggested — tongue somewhere between cheek and a more central role — that Florentino Perez should offer him a 10-year contract and that his current deal would not be his last. With Marco Asensio waiting on Ronaldo’s wing, that is the sort of assurance the Real president is too wily to be drawn into. Others may find themselves more starry-eyed.
PSG could probably meet Ronaldo’s financial demands and submit to his predictions of longevity purely with the prospect of a merchandising bonanza in mind. Chinese investors weighing into Serie A and the petrodollars swilling around the upper reaches of the Premier League will always find a natural bedfellow in the world’s most marketable player.
There is also the consideration that the three Portuguese amigos have finally been broken up at Madrid. Pepe is out of contract, Fabio Coentrao out of form and both are out of favour. The effect of that on a player who identifies so fiercely with his native land should not be lightly dismissed. In any case, Ronaldo is currently where he is most at ease, with Portugal preparing for an international tournament.
Winning the European championship was a cathartic moment for Ronaldo, who was finally anointed the greatest player ever to represent his country in the wake of victory at Euro 2016. Unbridled adoration ensued,