'Image' holds the key to Ronaldo's next move
Cristiano Ronaldo has told Real Madrid that he wants to leave the club - a decision that has been described as "irreversible".
What this all comes down to, if you believe those closest to Real Madrid, is something that is irreparable - the Portuguese's reputation after being denounced by Spain's tax authorities for allegedly defrauding them to the tune of €14.7m.
Anyone with eyes, and even most of those without, will be aware of how conscious Ronaldo has always been of his image.
Now, after what has been the most successful 12 months of his career, his name is set to be dragged through the mud as this tax case rolls on and on.
This is the price you pay for worldwide fame. If you do something wrong (or are even just accused of doing something), the whole world will know about it.
Think of the books, the weird movie and the expertly-curated social media platforms documenting Ronaldo's life… it is a form of controlling what the world thinks of you which is utterly destroyed by revelations such as these.
Ronaldo has tried to leave clubs before - he attempted to leave Real twice - and no doubt he will have another tantrum before he hangs up his golden boots.
On the previous occasions he tried to get out of Madrid, the basic reasoning came down to his belief that the club didn't value him enough.
They didn't treat him like Lionel Messi, who received Barcelona's full backing at all times, even when found guilty of tax fraud.
But there was a noticeable shift from Madrid after that. They were trying. There was clamour for Ronaldo to win the Ballon d'Or and then adulation when he did.
Madrid's fans have been tolerant of Ronaldo's flare-ups, talking about how "sad" he was with the club, and then the private meetings with Paris Saint-Germain in the 2015-16 season.
But even that is not enough for the 31-year-old who, it is now understood, had taken this decision before the Champions League final victory over Juventus a fortnight ago.
It is also worth noting that on every previous occasion Ronaldo has tried to leave Real, he has ended up getting a better contract and more money. That might be the play again, and it would be remiss to not mention that details of Messi's new contract should be announced soon - and it will take the Argentinian back above Ronaldo in terms of salary.
Does that matter? It shouldn't at the level these two earn at but, once again, it is the image that appears to be important here rather than the pounds and pennies.
"CR7 is deeply disillusioned with the whole situation raised in the country by the tax authorities and considers himself 'a victim of persecution'," according to Portuguese newspaper A Bola.
Persecution barely seems right. Ronaldo is not being pursued over small amounts of money but a shortfall of nearly €15m.
Messi was sentenced to 21 months in jail for less than a third of that amount (but will never spend a night behind bars because sentences under two years are nearly always suspended in Spain).
Yet that brings into stark focus the trouble Ronaldo might be finding himself in.
After the season he has had - winning the European Championship, Club World Cup, La Liga and the Champions League again - this could have proven to be the successful winding down of one of the greatest-ever football careers.
Instead, there's a fresh, lingering stain that no amount of hat-tricks or haircuts can rub off.
Real will let him calm down, hoping this is just a momentary tantrum that passes.
They could offer to pay his fines, should they arrive, but there is little else they can do for a man with nearly five years left on his contract.
Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain may be standing by but they are Jorge Mendes pawns in these scenarios. Neither have any control of the situation except to watch and wait… and hope.
That A Bola last week reported an upcoming €180m bid for Ronaldo is important because it is where the trail begins.
Yesterday's revelations that the 31-year-old superstar has told Real Madrid he wants to leave is just the next stage, a signpost on the path to resolution.
For now, nobody knows what that resolution will be. But with a Confederations Cup full of media opportunities to make his side of the story known, Ronaldo holds much of the power but not the leverage.
Keep in mind that image is everything, "irreversible" is nothing. (© Independent News Service)
Ronaldo by numbers
£874m Buy-out clause in his contract.
£45m Pre-tax annual salary.
600 Number of goals he has scored for Sporting, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Portugal.
105 Goals scored in Champions League (a record).
51 Goals for Real Madrid last season.
42 Hat-tricks for Madrid.
5 League titles spread across United and Real.
4 Champions League wins (one with United and three with Madrid).
4 Ballon d'Or awards.
Independent News Service