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The tax spotlight falls on Cristiano Ronaldo


Yesterday the Mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, paid us a visit, which was a welcome occasion. We learned a lot about the city, which is my city and one that you never fully know. We spoke about many sporting matters, from the grassroots up to the elite, from kids playing football in their neighbourhoods (Carmena is concerned by domestic violence, which so often originates from parental influence and has launched a campaign on the subject) up to Atlético’s new stadium. At one stage the question of the huge salaries footballers earn arose. I argued that it is only the best players that earn vast sums of money, and that get paid on the same lines as the biggest bands and the most famous actors.

But what is not acceptable or comprehendible is that they try to hoodwink the tax authorities. Now, Cristiano Ronaldo finds himself the subject of an investigation. The public prosecutor’s office has accused the Real Madrid star of the same offence that led to a suspended 21-month prison sentence against Leo Messi being upheld by the Supreme Court last month. Ronaldo stands accused of evading tax on earnings connected to his income generated in Spain by his image rights via offshore companies in Ireland and the British Virgin Islands. The amount laid out in the tax authorities’ investigation is 14.7 million euros. If Ronaldo is found guilty of fraud, he will have to return that amount in full, plus interest and in addition to a fine of between 25 and 50 percent of the total. Gestha, the tax inspectorate trade union, said in a statement that Ronaldo could risk a jail term of between two and seven years.

I don’t know what the eventual outcome will be but it does raise the question of why these players who earn such exorbitant amounts allow themselves to be caught up in similar predicaments. As in the case of Messi, there are people and companies that are set up to take charge of the paperwork and they are the authors of the shambles. And they always get off scot-free. But wouldn’t it be better to tell these people from the outset, to demand of them, that they do everything by the book? The argument that “I didn’t know” did not aid Messi’s defence and he was brought down by what the court termed “deliberate ignorance.” That is to say: you didn’t know because you didn’t want to know. And then comes the aftermath, the discredit applied to the clubs and to football in general and the bewilderment of the fans.