Real Madrid: Are tax issues at the heart of Cristiano Ronaldo’s future?

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has continually hinted he may opt to leave the European champions this summer, but what weight do his tax issues carry?


Reuters/HANNAH MCKAY

“It was nice to be at Madrid,” said the Portuguese star standing pitch-side at the Olympic Stadium, Kiev. “In a few days, I will give a response to the fans, because they have always been at my side.”

Speaking in the past tense, it was a clear hint that Cristiano Ronaldo considered his future to lie away from the European champions, who had won their third consecutive title moments earlier. But what is driving the Portuguese star’s ambition to leave?

Tax case

For the past twelve months, the former Manchester United star has been attending hearings and giving evidence hoping to avoid a criminal trial for tax evasion. The case relates to an alleged failure to pay image rights in Spain between 2011 and 2014.

Ronaldo has strenuously denied the claims and said he is “fully compliant with his tax obligations” despite a deficit of €14.7m, while Diario AS have reported he has since been asked to pay several fees and commission which bring the total up to €28m.

Reuters/HANNAH MCKAY

A report in El Mundo back in March stated Ronaldo hoped to satisfy Hacienda by repaying ‘€4-5m’ of the €14.7m he reportedly owed from his image rights but this would not suffice. More recently, El Confidencial reports the player will accept four counts of tax fraud and pay the Agencia Estatal de Administración Tributaria (AEAT) between €18-20m, thus avoiding jail time.

However, Ronaldo is said to be upset with Madrid’s lack of support for him in this case and believes he has been hung out to dry.

Poor presidential relationship

This is one strand of the forward’s increasingly strained relationship with club president Florentino Perez. “Now is not the time for individual issues; the club is more important than anyone,” the president said as his side paraded yet another Champions League title last month, referencing Ronaldo. “The same thing is heard every summer and then nothing happens.”

Reuters/VALENTYN OGIRENKO

Perez was not the man behind Ronaldo’s signing, the deal had already been concluded by the time he assumed office and the two have always endured a fractured relationship. Whilst the player felt alone over tax issues, he was dissatisfied at earning substantially less money than both Lionel Messi and Neymar, while he did not approve of Madrid, led by Perez, publicly courting the Brazilian star this season.

The Madrid president has also previously stated he would only sell the Portuguese star if he could sign Messi instead, and he clearly has a habit of upsetting Ronaldo in a way that did not happen before his move to the Spanish capital.

Will he stay or go?

Ronaldo is 33 and his market value is plummeting due to his ongoing years. Whilst he is still firmly among football’s elite and whilst his supreme physical condition and strategic resting ensure he still has a lot more left to give football, he is very much at the stage of his career when retirement is beginning to take prominence in the thought process.

This will automatically detract clubs who otherwise could splash out an eye-watering fee, such as perhaps Paris Saint-Germain or former club United. He has though accelerated since turning 30 and his goal output is simply phenomenal with 450 goals in 438 appearances for Madrid.

The club are likely to demand a minimum of €200m and unless the player seriously tries to force an exit, he will turn out for Los Blancos for some time yet.

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Colin Millar

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Colin Millar is a European football writer, with a particular passion for Spanish and English football, alongside that in his native Northern Ireland. Based in Spain, he is Deputy Editor of Football Espana and writes for a number of publications including the Daily Mirror NI.

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