Red-hot Chile's challenge to curb Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo at a training session in Kazan, Russia yesterday. The Portugal captain has been in irresistible form, scoring 16 goals in his last 10 matches for club and country.
Cristiano Ronaldo at a training session in Kazan, Russia yesterday. The Portugal captain has been in irresistible form, scoring 16 goals in his last 10 matches for club and country.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Confederations Cup semi-final looms as star's glut of goals unimpeded by court tax hearing

KAZAN (Russia) • Copa America champions Chile will try to neutralise Portugal's superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in today's Confederations Cup semi-final with the goal ace in rich form despite the tax storm brewing in Spain.

The 32-year-old converted a penalty in Saturday's 4-0 thrashing of New Zealand to claim his 75th international goal. The Real Madrid forward has now scored 16 times in his last 10 games for club and country.

Portugal's captain will next month face tax evasion charges in a court in Pozuelo de Alarcon, an upmarket suburb of Madrid, where his agent Jorge Mendes was charged yesterday with tax offences over his role in Radamel Falcao's alleged tax evasion.

The Monaco striker is suspected of failing to correctly declare €5.6 million (S$8.7 million) of income earned from image rights between 2012 and 2013, while he was at Atletico Madrid. The Colombian is accused of using a web of shell companies in the British Virgin Islands, Ireland, Colombia and Panama to avoid taxes on the image rights income.

Mendes arrived at the court around 11am local time wearing a dark suit and black tie. The 51-year-old made no comments as he went into court.

Ronaldo, the world's highest paid athlete according to Forbes, is due to be questioned after allegedly evading €14.7 million in taxes.

Despite the off-field turmoil and constant speculation about his future, having threatened to quit Real, he has dazzled on the pitch in Russia, claiming Man of the Match awards in all three games, netting two goals and providing an assist.

After steering Portugal to the Euro 2016 title in Paris a year ago, he will want to claim a second international title in Sunday's Confederations Cup final in St Petersburg, against Mexico or Germany who meet in the other semi-final.

"We all know he's an amazing player, he's very dangerous and can decide a game alone," said Chile midfielder Marcelo Diaz, who has often faced Ronaldo with his club Celta Vigo.

"He has had an amazing season in Spain, he's playing here with the same strength, which is why Portugal are in the semi-final.

"The main thing is trying to stop him getting the ball and scoring."

Chile, who won the Copa America in both 2015 and 2016, will present Portugal with their toughest test so far in Russia, but the South Americans have yet to beat Portugal in three attempts, with two defeats and a draw.

Fatigue could well be an issue in Portugal's ranks.

Head coach Fernando Santos opted to rest none of his forward line and it has been a long season for the likes of Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho, Andre Gomes and Bernardo Silva.

Defender Pepe sits out the game after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament in the big win over the Kiwis. Left-back Raphael Guerreiro is struggling with a bruised foot from the win over Russia.

Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has all 23 players fit and midfielder Charles Aranguiz has recovered from a knock in Sunday's 1-1 draw against Australia.

Despite doubts about Alexis Sanchez's Arsenal future, the Chile camp says their star striker is in high spirits. They hope his good performances will showcase his skills to potential future employers.

With a year left on his Gunners contract, Sanchez is stalling on signing an extension, amid rumours of a switch to Germany giants Bayern Munich.

"He's giving his best here and I think most players would like to be in a similar situation, because the best squads in the world want to have him, even if he is already at a good club," said Pizzi.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2017, with the headline 'Red-hot Chile's challenge to curb Ronaldo'. Print Edition | Subscribe