Real Madrid expected to give MLS stars intense match

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Veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard says top North American club players should expect “cut-throat” competition from Spanish giants Real Madrid in Wednesday’s Major League Soccer All-Star Game.

The All-Star match at Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, marks the end of a four-match, 11-day pre-season US tour for Real Madrid that included a 3-2 loss to rival Barcelona in a Clasico matchup at Miami.

But Howard expects Real Madrid to bring their best as they prepare for the upcoming La Liga campaign.

“When you get to play for a team like Real Madrid, there’s no days off,” Howard said. “There are no easy games. They have a world-class coach that they are trying to impress.

“They have got to play well to earn a spot coming up for the La Liga season. World football is intense and it’s cut-throat. There aren’t any days when guys just take it easy.

“When you put your jersey on and cross the line — whether it’s a tournament, a regular-season game, a pre-season game, an All-Star Game — these guys are going to be up for it.”

Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Howard will start in goal for Chicago Fire coach Veljiko Paunovic in the mid-season exhibition.

In 2001, Howard represented the East in a conference versus conference All-Star Game and in the following year he was part of an MLS All-Star squad that took on US national team.

He played against the MLS All-Stars when he returned with English Premiership side Everton in 2009 in the current format that pits the All-Stars against top-flight European competition.

“I’m not sure which one’s better,” he said of the various permutations of the All-Star Game he has experienced.

“But it will be certainly exciting to play Real Madrid — there’s no question about that.”

The All-Stars feature plenty of heavyweights with marquee match experience, including World Cup winners Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Villa and Kaka.

“It’s an honor to play for the MLS All-Star team, especially here in Chicago,” said the Fire’s German import

Schweinsteiger, who launched his MLS career this season and will captain the All-Stars by popular vote.

“We will look to have a good game, to be competitive against Real Madrid and if we can win, we will go for the match,” Schweinsteiger told the Chicago Tribune.

“We know that it is a very strong team and that we are playing together for the first time. It is not going to be easy at all, but we will try and have a good game and enjoy it a little.”

Orlando City’s Brazilian star Kaka, who helped Real Madrid to the 2011-12 La Liga title, said facing his former team will be “a very emotional experience.”

“I do not know how the game will go, but we have a great team to play a very even game with Real Madrid,” he said.

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Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo denies tax fraud at court hearing

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Ronaldo returns to training on August 5th.

Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo denied hiding millions of euros in income at a court hearing near Madrid on Monday where he was charged with tax evasion, the latest footballer star to fall foul of Spain’s taxman.

The Portuguese – the world’s highest paid sportsman according to Forbes magazine – follows in the steps of his arch-rival, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, who was found guilty of the same offence last year.

“I have never hidden anything, nor have I had the intention of evading taxes,” Ronaldo, 32, told the court, according to a statement from the sports agency which represents him, Gestifute.

“I always voluntarily file my tax returns because I think we all must file a return and pay taxes according to our income. Those that know me, know what I ask my advisors: that they have everything up to date and properly paid, because I don’t want problems.”

Accused of having evaded €14.7 million in tax, he entered and left the court in Pozuelo de Alarcon, a wealthy suburb of Madrid where he lives, via an underground garage to avoid the press.

Prosecutors allege he took “advantage of a company structure created in 2010 to hide income generated in Spain from his image rights from tax authorities”.

They say this was a “voluntary and conscious breach of his fiscal obligations in Spain”.

Prosecutors accuse the four-time world player of the year of evading tax via a shell company based in the British Virgin Islands and another in Ireland, known for low corporate tax rates.

In addition, they say the Real Madrid striker only declared €11.5 million of Spanish-related income from 2011 to 2014, while what he really earned during that time was close to €43 million euros.

They also accuse him of “voluntarily” refusing to include €28.4 million in income linked to the sale of his image rights for the 2015 to 2020 period to a Spanish company.

‘LEGAL AND LEGITIMATE’

Inaki Torres, communication's head at Gestifute, the agency which represents Ronaldo speaks to the media.

Inaki Torres, communication’s head at Gestifute, the agency which represents Ronaldo speaks to the media.

Ronaldo told the court he did not create a “special structure” to manage his image rights when he moved to Real in 2009 but simply maintained the one set up in 2004 while he was at Manchester United “long before I thought of coming to Spain”.

This structure had been deemed “legal and legitimate” by the British tax office.

The affair has taken its toll on Ronaldo.  According to press reports, Real’s all-time top goalscorer, threatened to leave Spain over the affair, giving supporters a fright.

He has since decided to stay on, according to Real coach Zinedine Zidane.

If he were put on trial and found guilty, Ronaldo would risk “a fine of at least €28 million” and could potentially be jailed for three-and-a-half years, the Gestha union of experts at Spain’s Inland Revenue has said.

Since extending his contract last November until 2021, Ronaldo is the highest paid sports star in the world with $93 million earned in 2016-2017, according to Forbes.

SUPER AGENT MENDES

Cristiano Ronaldo (L), Jorge Mendes.

Cristiano Ronaldo (L), Jorge Mendes.

Ronaldo is not the only footballer to fall foul of authorities in Spain, which is only just recovering from a damaging economic crisis that saw countless people lose their jobs and inequalities rise.

Messi was sentenced to a 21-month jail sentence and €2.09 million fine last year for tax fraud.

His prison sentence has since been replaced by another fine of 252,000 euros, which corresponds to 400 euros for each day of jail.

Barcelona’s Argentine defender Javier Mascherano, meanwhile, agreed a one-year suspended sentence with authorities for tax fraud last year.

Brazil star Neymar, another Barcelona forward, and his parents are also due to stand trial for alleged corruption over his transfer from Santos in 2013.

Real have not been spared either. Apart from Ronaldo, former player Angel di Maria, Portuguese defender Fabio Coentrao and Jose Mourinho, who coached the club from 2010 to 2013, have all been accused of tax fraud.

All are clients of super-agent Jorge Mendes, who was also questioned and put under official investigation last month by a Spanish court investigating alleged tax evasion by Monaco striker Radamel Falcao, another footballer in his stable.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo appears in court over tax evasion claims

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Cristiano Ronaldo.

Football megastar Cristiano Ronaldo appeared in court near Madrid on Monday accused of evading millions of euros in taxes, the latest player to fall foul of Spain’s taxman.

The 32-year-old entered the court in Pozuelo de Alarcon, a wealthy suburb of Madrid where he lives, in a car with tainted windows via an underground garage to avoid the glare of the dozens of cameras gathered outside.

The player is expected to speak to the press after his court hearing. A podium was set up outside the courthouse behind metal barriers.

The Portuguese star — the world’s highest paid athlete according to Forbes magazine — follows in the steps of his arch-rival, Barcelona forward and Argentina star Lionel Messi, who was found guilty of the same offence last year.

Other footballers have also recently run into trouble with Spain’s taxman, some of them already convicted and others under investigation.

Prosecutors accuse Ronaldo of having evaded 14.7 million euros ($17.3 million) in tax.

They allege he took “advantage of a company structure created in 2010 to hide income generated in Spain from his image rights from tax authorities”.

They say this was a “voluntary and conscious breach of his fiscal obligations in Spain”.

Prosecutors accuse the four-time world player of the year of evading tax via a shell company based in the British Virgin Islands and another in Ireland, known for low corporate tax rates.

In addition, they say the Real Madrid striker only declared 11.5 million euros of Spanish-related income from 2011 to 2014, while what he really earned during that time was close to 43 million euros.

And finally, they accuse him of “voluntarily” refusing to include 28.4 million euros in income linked to the sale of his image rights for the 2015 to 2020 period to a Spanish company.

Ronaldo is expected to declare himself not guilty during his closed door court appearance. He has defended himself, saying his “conscience is clear”.

His agent’s company Gestifute has also denied any “fiscal set-up” and said “the player didn’t hide anything”.

But the allegations still took their toll on the man with the “CR7” brand. According to press reports, Real’s all-time top goalscorer, threatened to leave Spain over the affair, giving supporters a fright.

He has since hinted he will stay on, telling Spanish sports daily Marca that he would like to continue to win trophies for Real.

If he were put on trial and found guilty, Ronaldo would risk “a fine of at least 28 million” euros and could potentially be jailed for three-and-a-half years, the Gestha union of experts at Spain’s Inland Revenue has said.

Since extending his contract last November until 2021, Ronaldo is the highest paid sports star in the world with $93 million earned in 2016-2017, according to Forbes.

SUPER-AGENT MENDES

Ronaldo is not the only footballer to fall foul of authorities in Spain, which is only just recovering from a damaging economic crisis that saw countless people lose their jobs and inequalities rise.

Messi was sentenced to a 21-month jail sentence and 2.09-million-euro fine last year for tax fraud.

His prison sentence has since been replaced by another fine of 252,000 euros, which corresponds to 400 euros for each day of jail.

Barcelona’s Argentine defender Javier Mascherano, meanwhile, agreed a one-year suspended sentence with authorities for tax fraud last year.

Brazil star Neymar, another Barcelona forward, and his parents are also due to stand trial for alleged corruption over his transfer from Santos in 2013.

Real have not been spared either.

Apart from Ronaldo, former player Angel di Maria, Portuguese defender Fabio Coentrao and Jose Mourinho, who coached the club from 2010 to 2013, have all been accused of tax fraud.

All are clients of super-agent Jorge Mendes, who was also questioned and put under official investigation last month by a Spanish court investigating alleged tax evasion by Monaco striker Radamel Falcao, another footballer in his stable.

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