As professional athletes go, they don’t come more urbane then Christiano Ronaldo, perhaps the world’s greatest, and certainly its most self-absorbed, soccer star.
You should have seen him on Tuesday. He was in Madrid with his girlfriend, Georgina Rodriguez, and the dude looked chill. His hair was slicked back. He was wearing a black turtleneck, accompanied by a black sport coat and black pants and accessorized by black framed sunglasses and white sneakers.
He looked like he was headed to a café, perhaps for a mid-afternoon cappuccino and a scone.
There was just one thing wrong with the picture. Renaldo, 33, was walking in, then walking out of a courtroom, where he was fined $21.6 million for tax fraud.
If that sounds like a lot of money, well, it is. But that was the cost of the deal he had to cut to avoid a 23-month prison term. And that would have difficult for him. They usually wear orange overalls in prison.
The deal he took was previously agreed to by the prosecutors, so he only had to spend 15 minutes or so in court. He walked in through the front door because he asked to walk in the back door and nobody was having that diva crap. So he had to march through the phalanx of photographs two times.
This has not been the best of years for our well-groomed friend. You may have heard he is facing a rape allegation in the United States. A civil lawsuit was filed in September in Nevada by Kathryn Mayorga who claims Ronaldo raped her in his Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police are looking into it. Ronaldo has denied any wrongdoing. So we will see about that.
Meanwhile, the Juventus star – he played for Real Madrid from 2009 to 2018 – decided it would be best for him to just ante up and settle the tax evasion case in exchange for a suspended jail sentence. He understood he had been red-carded by jurisprudence and it seems like the noble thing to do.
Since Forbes Magazine tells us he makes about $93 million a year, mostly from sponsorships, he knew he had the spare change to make his problem go away.
What’s more, he’s luckily a first-time offender and Spanish law allows such a person to serve anything less than a two-year prison term without actually serving it. So Europe’s best prison-league soccer team will have to do without its superstar.
Throughout this process – his fans would call it an ordeal – Renaldo has been pretty cavalier. His great wealth made it possible for him to buy his way out of the misery an average man would have endured.
From the time he was accused of using a phony business to hide the big bucks he’d made through selling his image rights from 2011-14, he has denied his guilt. In testimony, he claimed he’d been victimized, unfairly charged because of who he was. If so, why didn’t he just claim the income and pay the tariff?
Coincidentally, at the same time, Renaldo was playing the perp, his former Real Madrid teammate, Xabi Alonso, was also dealing with his own tax fraud problems. But his case was suspended and just like his pal, Alonso says he’s innocent of any charges.
This hubbub has really upset Renaldo. He decided to leave Real Madrid (think New York Yankees in shorts) for Juventus for a transfer fee of about $150 million.