Cristiano Ronaldo is due to answer charges of a €14.7m tax fraud in a Spanish courtroom this morning, the latest event in a busy few months for the Real Madrid superstar.
And there could still be plenty more drama to follow.
At the end of last season, Ronaldo and his agent Jorge Mendes set in motion a plan designed to ensure they came out on top no matter what happened this summer.
But more recently the situation has flown well beyond their control, with consequences for both the player and Madrid which are as yet unclear.
The first inkling that the reigning Ballon D’Or recipient might be considering a transfer came in early June, just after his burst of late season goals had fired Real Madrid to the La Liga and Champions League double.
The day the Portugal captain reported for international duty ahead of the Confederations Cup brought, coincidentally or not, a sensational cover story in the country’s leading sports daily.
A Bola claimed “clubs like Manchester United, Monaco, or Paris Saint-Germain,” plus “the multi-millionaires in Chinese football” were preparing “astronomical offers worth €180m” to convince Madrid to sell.
Ronaldo laughed these reports off while telling reporters that “nothing is impossible”.
There were fewer smiles a few weeks later when it was revealed publicly that Spanish prosecutors were charging him with a serious tax fraud that could bring mandatory jail time.
Given the public knowledge of investigations into image rights payments made to many clients of Mendes’ Gestifute agency, this should not really have been a surprise to anyone. But Ronaldo’s camp immediately let it be known that the sensitive superstar was so outraged at being treated “like a delinquent” that he had vowed to leave Spain for good.
Sources assured reporters at various publications that both United and PSG were viable options, and Madrid could not stop his departure.
Sceptical observers immediately assumed the plan was to leverage more money out of his current club, to help pay a settlement with the authorities of around €50m including back taxes and fines.
Blancos president Florentino Perez quickly made clear he would not be coming to the rescue — telling a radio interview that “anyway, Cristiano would not want that”.
The well-connected construction magnate also added repeatedly that in the end, everyone had to pay their own taxes.
Mendes himself was in court in Madrid in late June, giving evidence in a similar tax fraud case against ex-Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, another of his clients.
Judge Monica Gomez Ferrer asked about the Irish link in the chain of companies alleged used to divert ‘image rights’ payments away from the Spanish authorities, with the super-agent denying he knew anything about such arcane tax matters.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo was completely avoiding the issue as Portugal advanced to the Confederations Cup semi-finals in Russia.
Following a penalty shoot-out defeat to Chile, he left immediately for Madrid to see for the first time his new twin babies, born a fortnight before to a surrogate mother in the United States.
As the weeks passed, the 32-year-old’s potential exit routes began to disappear.
United manager Jose Mourinho said a return for his fellow Portuguese to Old Trafford was “mission impossible”.
PSG switched their focus to prising Neymar away from Barcelona.
Madrid were also working the market, putting together a €180m offer for Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe.
Still there was no word on the record from Ronaldo.
Last week he made a sponsor’s promotional tour of the Far East, talking a lot about how much he loves China in carefully controlled interviews, but not discussing his tax problems or clarifying where he hopes to be playing next season.
Many fans and pundits in Madrid have grown frustrated at the continuing silence.
The official line from Blancos coach Zinedine Zidane has been that he hopes Ronaldo is enjoying his holidays and is expecting him back with the squad next weekend on their return from pre-season preparations in the US.
But the notoriously difficult Bernabeu crowd do not like being messed with, and wily Perez knows when to liquidate depreciating assets.
Ronaldo will have to talk when he appears in front of Judge Gomez Ferrer this morning.
The most likely outcome remains that he pays the fine to avoid jail, and makes up with Madrid.
But do not rule out further plot twists, or more exotic destinations.
As the man himself said earlier this summer “nothing is impossible.”
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