And what this all comes down to, if you believe those closest to Real Madrid, is something that is “irreparable” – the Portuguese’s reputation after being denounced by Spain’s tax authorities for allegedly defrauding them to the tune of €14.7m.
Anyone with eyes, and even most of those without, will be aware of how conscious Ronaldo has always been of his image. Now, after what has been the most successful 12 months of his career, his name is set to be dragged through the mud as this tax case rolls on and on.
This is the price you pay for worldwide fame. If you do something (or are even just accused of doing something) then the whole world will know about it. Think of the books, the weird movie and the expertly-curated social media platforms documenting Ronaldo’s life… it is a form of controlling what the world thinks of you which is utterly destroyed by revelations such as these.
Ronaldo has tried to leave clubs before. He’s even tried to leave Real Madrid before – twice – and one would dare say this won’t be the last, with another hermetically-sealed, perfectly stage-managed tantrum just around the corner when he turns 34.
Both previous times he tried to get out of Madrid the basic reasoning came down to Cristiano feeling the club didn’t do enough for him or value him enough. They didn’t treat him like Lionel Messi, who received Barcelona’s full backing at all times, even when found guilty of tax fraud.
But there was a noticeable shift from Madrid after that. They were trying. There was clamour for Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or and then adulation when he did. Madrid’s fans have been very tolerant of Cristiano’s flare-ups, talking about how “sad” he was with the club, and then the private meetings with Paris Saint-Germain in the 2015/16 season. But even that is not enough for the 31 year old who, we now understand, had taken this decision even before Cardiff’s Champions League final. The hardest bit was keeping it quiet.
It is also worth noting that on every previous occasion Cristiano Ronaldo has tried to leave Real Madrid, he has ended up getting a better contract and more money. That might be the play again, and it would be remiss to not mention that Lionel Messi’s contract should be announced soon and it will take the Argentinean back above Ronaldo in terms of salary. Does that matter? It shouldn’t at the level these two earn at but, once again, it is the image that appears to be important here rather than the pounds and pennies.
“CR7 is deeply disillusioned with the whole situation raised in the country by the tax authorities and considers himself ‘a victim of persecution,’” say A Bola.
But persecution barely seems right. Ronaldo is not being pursued over small amounts of money but a shortfall of nearly €15m. Lionel Messi was sentenced to 21 months in jail for less than a third of that amount (but will never spend a night behind bars because sentences under two years are nearly always suspended in Spain).
Yet that brings into stark focus the trouble Cristiano Ronaldo might be finding himself in. After the year he has had – winning the Champions League, European Championships, Club World Cup, La Liga and Champions League again – this could have proven to be the successful winding down of one of the greatest-ever football careers.
Instead there’s a fresh, lingering stain that no amount of hat-tricks or haircuts can rub off.
Real Madrid will let him calm down, hoping this is just a momentary calentón that passes. They could offer to pay his fines, should they arrive, but there is little else they can do for a man with nearly five years left on his contract.
Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain may be standing by but they are Jorge Mendes pawns in these scenarios. Neither have any control of the situation except to watch and wait… and hope.
That A Bola last week reported an upcoming €180m bid for Cristiano Ronaldo is important because it is where the trail begins. This morning’s revelations that the 31-year-old superstar has told Real Madrid he wants to leave is just the next stage, a signpost on the path to resolution.
For now, nobody knows what that resolution will be. But with a Confederations Cup full of media opportunities to make his side of the story known, Cristiano Ronaldo holds much of the power but not the leverage. Keep in mind that image is everything, "irreversible" is nothing.