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Volume 6 No. 212

International Football

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).'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" (, 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" (, 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).

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is under investigation by the organization’s ethics committee for "more than one separate alleged instance of malpractice when he organised the sudden removal of the committee chairmen and members last month," according to David Conn of the London GUARDIAN. Swiss prosecutor Cornel Borbély, who was chair of the ethics committee’s “investigatory chamber,” is examining complaints that Infantino and FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura "improperly sought to influence the election in March of their favoured candidate for president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Ahmad Ahmad." The allegations "are understood to include claims from senior figures in African football that Infantino and Samoura promised FA presidents, in a series of private meetings, that they could accelerate the payment" of FIFA development money to their FAs if the presidents voted for Ahmad. Infantino is claimed to have maneuvered for "the ousting of the longstanding CAF president Issa Hayatou," after Hayatou "did not support him" in last year's presidential election (GUARDIAN, 6/18).

Scotland’s women’s team are heading toward Euro 2017 "in turmoil" after infuriating the Scottish FA "with a demand to be paid to play for their country," according to Gordon Waddell of the Scotland DAILY RECORD. Manager Anna Signeul’s squad is "in the middle of a major stand-off with the SFA" a month ahead of its first appearance at a major finals. The team withdrew all cooperation, other than playing, and is "fighting for parity with Gordon Strachan’s men’s team when it comes to rewards." Since it started its action, other than playing in the recent win over Romania and a defeat to Sweden, the squad has: 

  • "Refused all media interviews or photography."
  • Refused cooperation "with the SFA's in-house media or sponsors." 
  • Refused official Euro broadcaster Channel 4's "request for four players to participate in filming" for its opening credit.
  • Refused to "allow UEFA-mandated pictures and presentations to celebrate the 100-cap mark being hit by Jane Ross and Jen Beattie" (DAILY RECORD, 6/18).

A proposal to "scrap 45-minute halves is to be looked at by football's lawmakers to deter time-wasting," according to Mandeep Sanghera of the BBC. Instead, there could be "two periods of 30 minutes with the clock stopped whenever the ball goes out of play." The Int'l FA Board said that matches only see about 60 minutes of "effective playing time" out of 90. The idea is "one of several put forward in a new strategy document" designed to address football's "negativities." Another proposal "would see players not being allowed to follow up and score if a penalty is saved" -- if the spot kick "is not successful," play would stop and a goal kick would be awarded (BBC, 6/18). The London TELEGRAPH reported the IFAB said that the Fair Play! document has three aims -- to improve player behavior and "increase respect, to increase playing time and to increase fairness and attractiveness." The IFAB said in the document, "The strategy proposes measures to reduce time-wasting and 'speed up' the game." IFAB said that some of the proposals "could be implemented immediately and require no law changes," while some are "ready for testing/experiments" and others are "for discussion." Other ideas up "for discussion" include referees only blowing for halftime or full-time when the ball goes out of play, "and a penalty kick being either scored or missed/saved, with players not allowed to follow up to score, in order to stop encroachment into the penalty area" (TELEGRAPH, 6/17). 

'QUIET REVOLUTION': In London, Martyn Ziegler reported a proposal for penalty goals to be awarded for handballs on the line "is also in the document" which was produced by IFAB Technical Dir David Elleray. He said, "It is a radical document. You could say that it is a quiet revolution aimed at getting football even better. My starting point was to look at the laws and say, 'What are they for?' And if there is no particular reason then would changing them make the game better?" More "extreme ideas" contained in the document would see points docked from teams whose players "mob referees," and to change the timing of a match from 90 minutes to 60 minutes of "effective playing time" where the clock would be stopped every time the ball goes out of play (LONDON TIMES, 6/17).

One statistic "makes clear the enormous ticket demand among Atlético Madrid fans: in two weeks, the club's wait list for season tickets has doubled, from around 1,500 to 3,000." Next season will be the club's first at Wanda Metropolitano stadium (AS, 6/18).

On Saturday, Russia "marched on toward hosting football’s biggest party" when the the Confederations Cup kicked off in the $750M new stadium in Russian President Vladimir Putin's native St. Petersburg. Russia’s players "duly delivered a victory their head of state had all but demanded this week" by beating New Zealand 2-0. Putin "even got to meet Pele" at halftime. Arriving by helicopter close to the stadium "barely 20 minutes before kickoff, he was soon installed in the main grandstand" making a speech to launch the tournament. He said, "Here, on modern football arenas there will be tough, honest, fair fights until the last minutes of the match" (AP, 6/18).

Russian fans said that dozens -- including a notorious fan leader -- "have been barred from going to Confederations Cup games after their identity documents were unexpectedly canceled." Fans at the tournament "require not only tickets" but also a Russian government-issued "fan ID," in a measure designed to "allow the state to filter out potential troublemakers." A Moscow-based hotline providing legal support for fans said that "many Russians had IDs granted which were canceled hours before Russia's opening game against New Zealand, making their tickets useless" (AP, 6/18).