Fans of Real Madrid football club were only minutes into celebration their Champions League victory over Liverpool on Saturday, when they were delivered a harsh reality check from their team’s best player — none other than superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
After said match, Ronaldo stated that “It’s been very nice playing for Real Madrid,” and the past tense nature of that statement cast even more fuel to the fire that was the rumors that he’d be leaving the team after the season was over.
Said rumors emerged late in 2017, when he indicated he wanted a pay raise after leading Real to a victory in the Club World Cup. After said request seemingly fell on deaf ears, Ronaldo reportedly felt betrayed by the club, which seemed to spur his desire to leave the club and seek more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Ronaldo reportedly even told teammates that he as going to leave the Real Madrid club at the end of the season.
After Ronaldo’s comments on Saturday, he was immediately asked whether his statement indicated that those rumors came to fruition, and he’d be leaving the team. Ronaldo did nothing to dispel the rumors or that notion, instead replying: “In the coming days you will have my answer to the fans, the ones who have really been on my side.”
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One wrinkle in all of this is Ronaldo’s contentious relationship with Spanish tax authorities. For a player making upwards of €21 million each year, it’s not surprising that he’s not only under some level of scrutiny from tax officials, but that he’s doing everything he can to keep all of those earnings, and not give it back. That’s just what happens with people with that much money, and why they devote so many resources to finding creative ways to keep their earnings. But at the end of the day, there are only so many legal ways to do so, and Ronaldo might be running out of those.
Still, other officials with clubs in the Champions League remain skeptical, likely believing this is something of a negotiating tactic being used by Ronaldo. Back in November of 2016, he signed a deal with Real Madrid to remain with the team through the early summer of 2021, and league sources believe that he has no interest in leaving Madrid now, or even when his deal is over. He has been with his current squad since 2009, and until these last few months — building upon his contract demands — there has been no reason to think he wants to play elsewhere.
After all, Ronaldo has now led his team the European title five times over the course of his career, making him the first player to ever do so in the history of the Champions League (in the current era). He trails only Paco Gento, former Spanish footballer who won six European Cups between 1956 to 1966 as a member of Real Madrid.
Though he didn’t tally a score in the victory over Liverpool, Ronaldo finished this past season as the leading scorer in the Champions League, finding the back of the net 15 times this year.
Ronaldo finished as the top scorer in the Champions League this season with 15 goals.