Football

Ronaldo tax trial set for January court date, as he urges Messi to join him in Italy

Cristiano Ronaldo will be tried for tax fraud on January 21, a Spanish court has said.

Ronaldo is expected to plead guilty and receive a suspended two-year sentence, in agreement with a deal the Portugal forward struck with Spain’s state prosecutor and its tax authorities this year.

The deal includes Ronaldo agreeing to also pay a fine of close to €19m (£17.1m) for the reduced sentence.

In Spain, a judge can suspend sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders.

Last year, a state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth €14.7m (£13.2m). Ronaldo was accused of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights.

The accusation does not involve his salary from former club Real Madrid.

Ronaldo left Madrid to play for Italian champions Juventus last summer.

Cristiano Ronaldo says he hopes Lionel Messi “accepts the challenge like me” and leaves Spain to play in Serie A.

The 33-year-old joined Juventus in the summer for a fee in the region of £105m after nine years at Real Madrid, where he won two La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.

Messi has spent his entire career at Barcelona but Ronaldo has now urged the Argentine to leave the Nou Camp and join him in Italy, suggesting the 31-year-old perhaps “needs” him.

“I’d like him to come to Italy one day. I hope he accepts the challenge like me, but if he’s happy there then I respect that,” Ronaldo told the Italian press.

Asked if he missed Messi, Ronaldo replied: “No, maybe it’s him who misses me. I’ve played in England, Spain, Italy, Portugal and for my national team, while he’s still in Spain.

“Maybe he needs me more. For me, life is a challenge, I like it and I like to make people happy. He’s a fantastic player and a good guy, but I don’t miss anything here. This is my new life and I’m happy.

“I left my comfort zone and took on this challenge here in Turin, everything has gone well, I’ve proven I’m still an incredible player.”

Ronaldo says he is absolutely convinced he made the right decision to leave Real Madrid for Turin in the summer but admits different clubs were interested in signing him.

“I had different options. I won’t say which but I had them. Juventus is a solid club. It has a long history,” he said. “I knew the atmosphere in the stadium. I’d played several times in Italy. I like the city, the people and the club. I knew it could work.

“I couldn’t be 100 per cent sure I was joining the best club in the world. After nine years at Real Madrid it was difficult to compare. Now I’m 100 per cent sure it was the right option.”

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