Surrounded by doubts about his future at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo is bringing some unwanted distraction to Portugal’s national team ahead of the World Cup.
Ronaldo was expected to join Portugal’s squad on Monday, with just about everyone wondering what he will say about his situation with Real Madrid.
[ MORE: Can off to Juve ]
For the second straight year, Ronaldo’s arrival with the national team is being marred by talks about his club. The same thing happened before last year’s Confederations Cup, when a Portuguese daily published a report saying Ronaldo wanted to leave Real Madrid after being accused of tax fraud in Spain.
This time, it was Ronaldo himself who raised doubts about his future, saying moments after the Champions League final that it “was very beautiful” to have played with the Spanish club.
Ronaldo said he would reveal his future plans when he joined the national team, and that time has arrived, putting the spotlight on the star forward and not so much on Portugal’s World Cup preparations.
Ronaldo was expected to practice Monday, but it wasn’t yet clear if he was going to speak to the media.
He was to join Portugal’s squad later than the other players because of the Champions League final.
The defending European champions have already played two World Cup warm-up matches – drawing 2-2 against Tunisia and 0-0 against Belgium. The team’s final game before the World Cup will be against Algeria on Thursday, when Ronaldo will likely be available to boost the attack.
A five-time player of the year, Ronaldo has a contract with Madrid until 2021. But he and his agents could be seeking a salary increase in a market that has boomed since Neymar’s record transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.
Madrid president Florentino Perez has always made Ronaldo a priority, and this time his importance for the club could be even greater after coach Zinedine Zidane decided to quit and with Gareth Bale also possibly on his way out.
Since Ronaldo’s comments after the Champions League final, there have been widespread rumors about him joining PSG or returning to Manchester United.
Last year’s report in Portuguese media said Ronaldo’s decision to leave Madrid was “irreversible,” but he continued with the Spanish club and helped it win a fourth Champions League title in five seasons.
Ronaldo has not hidden his discontentment with the tax fraud accusations in Spain. Last week, not long after he hinted his time with Madrid was over, reports emerged in Spanish media that his offer to make a deal with the country’s tax authorities had been rejected, handing him another disappointing setback.
Ronaldo was accused of defrauding tax authorities of 14.7 million euros ($17.1 million) from 2011-14. Prosecutors accused him of using a shell company in the Virgin Islands to hide the true amount of income made from image rights, among other irregularities, to reduce the amount of tax he paid.
Ronaldo and his agents have denied any wrongdoing.
More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni