There was "shock across the footballing world on Friday" with the news that Cristiano Ronaldo "wants to leave Real Madrid," according to Diego Acedo of MARCA. Ronaldo told his int'l teammates that his decision "is final and that he truly will depart the Spanish capital." He said, "I am leaving Real Madrid. I have made a decision. There is no turning back." Also "coming as a surprise to those in the Portugal camp" was the front page of Lisbon-based publication A Bola from earlier in the week, which stated that an offer of €180M ($202M) will be made for the 32-year-old this summer (MARCA, 6/16). ESPN.com's Samuel Marsden reported a source confirmed that Ronaldo wants to leave Spain "after being accused of tax evasion." A Bola reported Ronaldo "privately feels upset at the treatment he has received from authorities in Spain." A "source close to Ronaldo" confirmed that he "would prefer to play in another country" rather than deal with what he sees as "persecution" in Spain. The source said, "He is outraged -- feels great indignation with all the speculation about, for example, the tax story. And he believes he was unfairly and disproportionately singled out as an example, despite having voluntarily paid [taxes]. ... So, he is determined to leave Spain, yes. Let's see what will happen, but he is very, very mad with all these things." Sentences less than two years for first-time offenders in Spain are "usually suspended," making players like Ronaldo and Lionel Messi "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% more than his Barcelona counterpart, and because he "already once attempted to settle his tax situation" by paying an extra €5.6M in '14. 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" (ESPN.com, 6/16).
EMPTY THREAT?: Marsden also wrote could Ronaldo "really be angling for another wage hike with these supposed threats?" Maybe, instead, "all he wants is a little bit of love; some support" from his club. Barcelona's #WeAreAllMessi campaign "was widely mocked on social media" when the Argentine was facing tax evasion accusations, but it would not be surprising if Ronaldo "wanted a similar hashtag." The accusations "are out there now" and even if he is proven innocent, "a certain amount of damage has already been done." In "making it clear he is prepared to leave, he may be looking to reinforce the idea he is great for Spain and La Liga" and, as such, "send a warning: Continuing to hound him over issues like this will force him to leave the country" (ESPN.com, 6/16).
SHOW OF SUPPORT: The London GUARDIAN reported Portugal coach Fernando Santos and striker André Silva defended Ronaldo, with Silva insisting Ronaldo is "focused on the Confederations Cup." In a press conference "dominated by questions on Ronaldo, Santos eventually refused to discuss the subject further" but said, "I would put my hands in the fire for [Ronaldo’s] character and integrity, as a person and as an athlete" (GUARDIAN, 6/17).
ZIDANE MAKES CALL: In Madrid, Pablo Polo reported Real Madrid Manager Zinedine Zidane "hopes he can convince the player to stay in the Spanish capital." As soon as Zidane heard of the player's intentions, he phoned Ronaldo to "discuss the announcement and discover the real reasons behind the decision to go public with his discontent." The coach "is confident that the problems can be resolved" (MARCA, 6/18). AS reported La Liga President Javier Tebas said, "Knowing his entourage, the professionals that they are, I have no doubt that Cristiano is innocent." Of the "consequences there would be if Ronaldo left Spain," Tebas said, "They can't be quantified, but he is very important, and moreso with the international growth of La Liga. It would be a very significant loss for us, an irreparable loss" (AS, 6/18).
BACK TO MANU?: In London, Duncan Castles reported ManU wants to "return Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford in the wake of his decision to leave Spain this summer." Already "in the market for an elite striker before Ronaldo informed Real Madrid of his intention to leave," ManU is "exploring the viability of buying the 32-year-old back." With Paris St. Germain "prominent amongst other European clubs considering a bid," and Chinese suitors "ready to substantially improve the terms" of his €21M ($23.5M) per year net salary, Ronaldo's price "is likely to exceed the record sum" ManU paid Juventus for Paul Pogba last year (LONDON TIMES, 6/18).