Heart Of Football

If Ron's tax is €24m, dare we suggest he owes more?

Question: What individual can be worth the combined annual salaries of 6,300 software engineers, or 9,220 account executives in Singapore?

The answer, based on his own published statement this weekend, is Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro.

Normally, we are guessing at the superstar income of someone moving in the rarified atmosphere of CR7. But as of Thursday, when his Portuguese agent made a public declaration of Ronaldo's income and taxes, we have presumably authentic figures to go on.

According to that statement, Ronaldo's total remuneration in 2015 was €203,790,952 (equivalent to S$307,856,523).

He gets all of that for playing football? Not so. Real Madrid pays him no more than S$664,700 per week (after tax), according to the reported five-year deal he signed last month. If honoured, it takes him beyond his 36th birthday.

The rest is garnered from the mountain of sponsorships. The speed and the guile the advertising tie-ups from Nike to Armani, from Tag Heuer to Castrol, from Poker Stars to Monster to his own brand of underpants and the Ronaldo Legacy in a bottle,

When you are that high, the media never sleeps around you. Ronaldo feasts on the publicity partly because his ego craves it, partly because the more people talk about him, the bigger the sponsorship sums that dwarf even the regular weekly wage at Madrid.

Again, there are presumptions there. The player might not last that long in the Spanish league, the Champions League or, on occasions when Real are Europe's champion, the Fifa Club World Cup.

It is that extra duty, that pretentious bauble played between the champions of Fifa's six confederations in the run-up to Christmas, that persuades Real to rest the great man this weekend.

Real played against Deportivo La Coruna last night, but Ronaldo was excused to keep him fresh for the Club World Cup in Japan.

The next game, in Yokohama next Thursday, is against either Japan's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors or Mexico's Club América. After that a likely final against Colombia's Atletico Nacional.

While Ronaldo rests, the opponents toil to reach the semi-finals. But there is no rest for the wicked, or for those who handle the global industry that is is CR7.

He is David Beckham to the power of seven. As Ronaldo nears his 32nd birthday, his very understanding coach Zinedine Zidane appreciates that he is entering the phase where blinding speed and dancing footwork diminish, but vast experience and game know-how take over.

Ronaldo isn't the only player in the world on outrageous income. Arsenal right now are facing contract extensions for Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez - not because they are in the final months of their agreements, but because they are 18 months away from that time.

And in football, under Fifa law, the player who is allowed to wind down his contract becomes a free agent (free of transfer sum) during the final year of his agreement.

For Sanchez, in particular, there is already the lure of moving to the Chinese Super League.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hears, and believes, the rumour of his star Chilean striker being offered £400,000 (S$719,530) per week to play in China.

"Why would you go to China when you're playing in England?" he asked, rhetorically at his press conference this weekend.

Because Sanchez might treble his salary, for a less exacting toll on his body, perhaps.

The Frenchman then mused about players of today all being on big money, and all having decisions to make between what they want to achieve in their careers.

They reach the stage, Monsieur Wenger implies, when money is not the only thing, not even the most fulfilling thing in life.

Oh to be a fly on the Arsenal walls when the manager sit down with the players' agents on those negotiations.

Over and above what Sanchez or Ozil might be able to obtain from Arsenal, the man who is king (or a contender for king given that Lionel Messi seems forever in renegotiations at Barcelona), is still Ronaldo.

And when you are that high, the media never sleeps around you. Ronaldo feasts on the publicity partly because his ego craves it, partly because the more people talk about him, the bigger the sponsorship sums that dwarf even the regular weekly wage at Real Madrid.

Mediapart, a French online investigative journal, jumped the gun on collaborative efforts by leading European newspaper and TV companies to expose the salaries and alleged tax dodges of players everywhere.

Angel di Maria and Javier Pastore, both of Paris Saint-Germain, are named this weekend.

Last week, it was Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho.

The connection there is not just that they are Portuguese, not simply that Mourinho managed Ronaldo for a couple of seasons at Real. But that their careers are managed by the same agent, the ubiquitous Jorge Mendes.

When 12 European newspapers and TV companies started publishing allegations of tax evasion garnered from a German magazine Der Speigel investigation, the agency that Mendes runs, GestiFute, issued a rebuttal and a legal threat.

"Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho are fully compliant with their tax obligations with the Spanish and British tax authorities," the statement read.

"Any insinuation or accusation made to Cristiano Ronaldo or Jose Mourinho over the commission of a tax offence will be reported to the legal authorities and prosecuted."

The media consortium reported that GestiFute used tax havens in the British Virgin Islands to handle tens of millions of Euros in earnings from the image rights outside of club salaries.

GestiFute then responded on Thursday by publishing the statement of all Ronaldo's income during 2015 - totalling over €203 million income from all sources, on which he paid €23,606,231 to the tax authorities.

"This communication," GestiFute stated, "constitutes irrefutable proof that Cristiano Ronaldo and his representatives are in good faith and cooperate with the authorities in a spirit of transparency and compliance with legality."

Spain's state secretary of the treasury announced that it would make appropriate inspection of the matter.

And the man in the spotlight? "Do you think I am worried?" Ronaldo answered to reporters following last Wednesday's Champions League draw against Borussia Dortmund.

He then answered his own question and walked away. "He who owes nothing," concluded Ronaldo, "fears nothing."

Enjoy the games today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 11, 2016, with the headline 'If Ron's tax is €24m, dare we suggest he owes more?'. Print Edition | Subscribe