Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid future remains up in the air as tensions increase between all parties

Having set off a battle of egos with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, Cristiano Ronaldo now needs to either make a humbling climbdown or he could face a humiliating exit through the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu’s backdoor this summer.

Only a few weeks ago all seemed sweetness and harmony at Madrid, with Ronaldo having led the team to the Champions League/La Liga double, and the 32-year-old himself talking again about staying at the club for another decade at least.

But Ronaldo’s hurt and stubborn reaction to being charged by a Spanish court with a potential €14.7million tax fraud, and carefully cultivated speculation about a return to Manchester United or a move to Paris Saint Germain, have set up a situation which could yet backfire completely on the player and his advisors.

Ronaldo’s tax problems are not new, charges have been looming for a long time, well before the issue was made public by Football Leaks last December. He himself had always seemed nonplussed about the situation, even joking about the FIFA ‘Best’ trophy coming “tax free” when he won it last January.

But now he and his advisors have let it be known that he is so angered by being made to look like a “delinquent” that he can no longer even bear to live in Spain. 

Ronaldo clearly feels he has done nothing wrong, and if mistakes were made by someone along the way, well then that is their problem to clear up. While it is easy enough to accept that the superstar himself could believe this given how sheltered he is from real life, his lawyers surely know they will have to follow the example set by Lionel Messi [and many other La Liga stars] and pay the taxes, accept a fine, or else jail time could become a real possibility.

However, that still leaves the little matter of who stumps up the €50million or so [including €28million fine] which will be needed to sort everything out. 

Madrid have been much more cautious in their approach to the developing situation, which erupted in mid-June during the short period before Florentino Perez’s latest term in charge was confirmed. Having kept silent until his new mandate began, Perez did a series of interviews last week, with Onda Cero radio, ABC and Marca, where he defended Madrid’s position but did not unflinchingly support his player, mentioning a few times that it all depends on the “interpretation” of the actual tax laws. 

The most telling perhaps parts of the conversations came when Perez said he had only heard of Ronaldo’s latest unhappiness via leaks first to A Bola in Portugal, then to other Spanish and international media. This was not how things should be done, he stated, with an obvious inference that he felt that Mendes and Ronaldo were trying to play him. 

A neatly placed article had appeared in the Portuguese press just after Cardiff claiming a mystery €180million bid for Ronaldo from an unnamed club. That was then given more oxygen when the Portugal captain himself said with a smile that “nothing was impossible” as he arrived for international duty a few days later.

Then came the news of the court date set for July 31 - and more leaks about Ronaldo having made up his mind to leave Madrid. His silence on the issue all through the current Confederations Cup in Russia, while letting surrogates such as Lille director of football and close Mendes associate Luis Campos talk of how he was “hurt” and “needed time”, has also been closely noted around the Bernabeu. 



A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on Jun 26, 2017 at 2:48am PDT

When the possibility of Madrid making Ronaldo happy again by paying the tax arrears and fine was raised during last week’s radio interview, Perez said the question was not relevant and "anyway Cristiano would not want that". He also kept repeating that in the end everyone had to pay their own taxes. 

Perez also made clear that Ronaldo was under contract until 2021 and he had no intention of being pressured into letting him leave on the cheap. If Mendes thought he was acting from a position of power, following the superstar’s outstanding personal end to last season, their position looks much more shaky now. 

The idea of a return to United, or move to PSG, may have started off as just bargaining chips. But the game has now changed, and they might now actually need to find out whether either of those clubs will really pay a €100million plus fee for a 32-year-old with so many miles on the clock, and also match his current Madrid salary. If not then Mendes' close links to China could be required, if his client could even be persuaded it was an option.

Although this week has brought a relative lull to the unfolding events, it all still seems very much out of control, especially as none of the protagonists involved are known for taking steps backwards. At this moment though it looks like Ronaldo and Mendes have backed themselves into a very difficult position. Getting out of it will require some more skillful manoeuvring than they have shown so far this summer.