Cristiano Ronaldo happy to put personal woes behind him, ready to keep playing until 41
Following a year that saw Cristiano Ronaldo embroiled in a tax evasion scandal and an alleged rape case, the star is happy he can shift his focus again to football en route to new achievements in his already trophy-laden career.
Speaking about his brush with Spanish tax authorities that charged him with evading the payment of €14.7 million in taxes between 2011 and 2014.
“2018 was the most difficult year of my life on a personal level,” Ronaldo told Portuguese TV channel TVI.
“It hurts when they question your honor, but thank God it was proven that I was innocent.”
However, the Portuguese striker eventually admitted tax fraud and accepted a deal with Spanish prosecutors, agreeing to pay an €18.8 million fine to settle the case. He was also slapped with a 23-month suspended jail sentence, which, as a first-time offender, he is now serving on probation.
Across the Atlantic, Ronaldo fought sexual assault accusations brought by former U.S. model Kathryn Mayorga, who claimed that the football star had raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2009 and later paid her $375,000 through his “fixers” to keep silent.
Ronaldo denied the rape allegations from the outset, and his lawyer Peter Christiansen insisted that the sex was consensual. However, Ronaldo’s legal team did admit that he had endorsed the payment to Mayorga “in order to maintain the confidentiality of their dispute.”
In July, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office said it would decline to prosecute the allegations against Ronaldo, citing they could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
“It was horrible, but those who love me knew I was innocent,” said Ronaldo.
Now, in his second season at Serie A champions Juventus, the Portuguese ace seems hungrier than ever to continue filling his trophy cabinet with new silverware and individual awards.
At 34, he feels he still has a lot of “mileage” in his legs.
“I could finish my career next year, but I can also play until I am 40 or 41. I don’t know, what I always say is that you have to enjoy the moment,” he said.
One of Ronaldo’s motives to keep going might be getting ahead of his longtime nemesis on the pitch, FC Barcelona’s wizard Leo Messi.
Last year, Ronaldo’s transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus stripped Spain and the rest of the football world of the opportunity to watch epic clashes of the world’s two best football players in El Clásico, but the rivalry is still on as their current teams compete to win the most prestigious club tournament in Europe, the UEFA Champions League.
The two have captured five Ballon d’Or trophies apiece – the most in the history of football – and Ronaldo has the edge in the Champions League with five titles compared to Messi’s four.
The Portuguese has also been more successful as an international player, winning the UEFA European Championships in 2016 and the UEFA Nations League in 2019, while Messi’s only major honor with the Argentinian national team dates back to 2008 when they took Olympic gold in Beijing.
“It’s not surprising that he and I are the only ones who have won five Golden Balls,” admitted Ronaldo, adding that he is keen to win more.