MADRID • Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo feels unable to celebrate his fourth Ballon d'Or award as much as his previous triumphs, due to recent allegations of tax evasion.
The European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) media consortium reported early this month that the Portuguese footballer, and several other clients of the agency Gestifute, had used tax havens to handle tens of millions of euros in earnings.
Gestifute denied the accusations last week.
Ronaldo, who led Portugal to the Euro 2016 title in July after helping Real Madrid clinch the Champions League, expressed his disappointment at the timing of the charges against him.
"Of course it (the allegations have) spoilt it a little bit. I would be lying if I said it hadn't. I'm not a hypocrite," he told France Football magazine. "I wasn't pleased.
"The whole process in itself is hard and not only for me, but also for the people alongside me - my family, my son, all those who work with me.
PROUD OF THE MILESTONE
For me, it's a great honour to receive my fourth Ballon d'Or. The emotion is like the first one - it's a dream come true again. I never thought to win four times the Ballon d'Or.
CRISTIANO RONALDO, Real Madrid forward, on clinching his fourth Ballon d'Or.
DISTURBED BY THE ALLEGATIONS
There are a lot of innocent people in prison. And I feel a little bit like that. You know you have done nothing wrong, and they say you have done something reprehensible. No one likes that.
RONALDO, dismissing the ill-timed accusations of tax evasion.
"All that irritates me because I try to do things correctly, be transparent."
In its denial, Gestifute stated that Ronaldo, who moved to Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2009, is compliant with his tax obligations in Spain.
The 31-year-old Ronaldo, who beat Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann to world football's top individual prize for 2016 at a glitzy ceremony in Paris on Monday, insists he has nothing to hide.
"You just have to type 'Cristiano Ronaldo' on the Internet and you know everything about me," the Portugal captain said. "I don't have any reason to lie.
"What came out troubles me. Because it's not true. The lie is troubling. I have done things correctly.
"There are a lot of innocent people in prison. And I feel a little bit like that. You know you have done nothing wrong, and they say you have done something reprehensible. No one likes that.
"But the truth always comes out. Sooner or later."
On Monday, Ronaldo called it "a dream come true again" as he won the Ballon d'Or again.
It was the perfect ending to another stellar year for the Portuguese, who won the Champions League for the second time in three seasons and then led Portugal to their first major title at Euro 2016 - though he went off early, injured and in tears, in the surprise victory over France.
As has been the case for almost a decade now, Ronaldo's main rival was Messi - but the Argentinian had to relinquish the crown after a less-than-stellar year for club and country by his lofty standards.
Ronaldo is now one Ballon d'Or behind Messi, who was second this time with Frenchman Griezmann third.
"For me it's a great honour to receive my fourth Ballon d'Or. The emotion is like the first one - it's a dream come true again," Ronaldo, who is at the Club World Cup in Japan, told L'Equipe TV. "I never thought to win four times the Ballon d'Or, I'm so pleased and so happy."
Ronaldo had very little time to celebrate yesterday as Real, who are chasing a second world title in three years, focused on their task in Japan.
He was presented with an edible version of the golden globe and a healthy plate of berries by captain Sergio Ramos before the team hit the training pitch for tomorrow's semi-final against Mexico's Club America in Yokohama.
Ramos, who looks set to sit out the game with fatigue, posted a photo of himself and Ronaldo at the team's hotel on Twitter with the message: "Congratulations, Cristiano. You deserve it."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE