Ronaldo Bags World Cup Hat Trick, Has Jail (Theoretically) to Look Forward To

Those who were tuned in to the second (really, the first) day of the World Cup in Russia witnessed an epic match between historic rivals Portugal and Spain which came down to the wire.

Final score: Spain: 3, Cristiano Ronaldo: 3.

That’s right, the rest of the Portuguese team might as well have stayed at home. As much as this might seem like an exaggeration in a team sport like fùtbol, Ronaldo’s final goal, which tied the match in the waning minutes, exemplifies how invaluable he is to whatever success his nation’s squad experiences during this quad-ennial tournament.

In the World Cup, the difference between closing a match in a tie and losing by just one goal could mean the margin between winning the cup and going home in the first round. And the difference between tax evader and superstar is, apparently, nothing.

It’s difficult to fathom that the most talented soccer player on the planet could be a tax fraud. It’s like finding out for the first time that MC Hammer was broke. Just shocking.

Here’s the low down of what’s going on with the case:

No, Cristiano is not going to serve any jail time. A bigger embarrassment for the Spanish judicial system is difficult to fathom. But, the Spanish authorities are saving face by stating that Cristiano’s probationary period is, for all intents and purposes, prison.

PS: it’s not prison, not even close.

Cristiano denies the charges, of course, and he’s not the first big time athlete to be caught up in the web of European taxation. If you don’t believe that Ronaldo is the best player in the world, your second choice is almost certainly the Argentinean, Lionel Messi.

He’s also has tax problems, an indication that the system – not the superstar, multi-millionaire players – is to blame for these high-profile tax cases.

Messi, like Ronaldo, was technically sentenced to prison. The diminutive superstar, who has found his way to stardom through the Barcelona training system, has harsh words for his experience with the Spanish taxation system.

‘Barcelona forward Messi and his father were both found guilty of three counts of tax fraud totalling €4.7 ($5.46 million) million in 2016. Messi was handed a 21-month suspended sentence -- which prosecutors in Spain later replaced with a fine -- and ordered to pay a fine of €2m.’ (ESPN)

Clearly, there’s something about the Spanish taxation system that footballers feel is unfair.

‘"I have been through some tough times, like the whole mess with the tax office," he told Sport. "It was hard because of the way they attacked me and said things about me, my family, my dad, my people. I felt attacked from Madrid and it was hard.

"I felt victimized but I was lucky enough to have the backing of those close to me: of Barcelona, of Catalonia, of journalism [in Catalonia]. That kept me a little more calm.’ (ESPN)

Trouble aside – and these kind of ordeals aren’t to be trivialized – Messi emerged relatively unscathed, with a significant financial fine represent the extent of the punitive measures. It seems most likely that Ronald is going to see a similar outcome.

‘Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly agreed to accept a €18.8m (£16.4m) fine and a suspended jail term to settle tax evasion charges.

The Real Madrid and Portugal footballer, 33, was accused last year of defrauding tax authorities of €14.8m, charges he denies.

Ronaldo is unlikely to serve any time in prison under the deal - reportedly a verbal one at this stage. Under Spanish law, a two-year sentence for a first offence can be served on probation, with no requirement for custody.’ (BBC)

The case of Cristiano Ronaldo proves once again that money can solve virtually anything. Like a performance enhancing drug cheat in baseball, if the meant result in a multi-million dollar contract, a dark spot on the reputation and a half year suspension is well worth the price. In the case of Cristiano, he tried to get away with some clever tax maneuvers, and all it cost him was a cool $21 million.

As they say, if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. Cristiano – the target of banal tax laws which govern most major sports, but hit especially hard in European leagues – gave it his best shot, and he got caught.

A 3-3 draw with Spain will be enough to quell the admittedly large stake of cash that Ronaldo is now forced to part with.

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