The Portugal coach, Fernando Santos, and the striker André Silva have defended Cristiano Ronaldo, with Silva insisting his team-mate and captain is focused on the Confederations Cup, despite tax fraud accusations and fresh transfer speculation this week.
Ronaldo, who is in Russia as Portugal prepare for their opening match against Mexico, is said to be “outraged” after prosecutors accused the 32-year-old Real Madrid forward of defrauding the authorities of €14.8m (£12.9m).
In a press conference dominated by questions on Ronaldo, Santos eventually refused to discuss the subject further but defended his player’s character. “I would put my hands in the fire for [Ronaldo’s] character and integrity, as a person and as an athlete,” he said. “I have a pact with the players and we treat these personal matters away from the national team. All these issues will not affect us.”
A source has claimed Ronaldo “feels great indignation” with all the conjecture about his tax affairs and a sense of “injustice” at the allegations, which he contests, and has made a decision to leave Spain. That has prompted speculation linking him with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United among others but Silva, who moved to Milan from Porto earlier this month, insists the four-time Champions League winner remains focused on his country’s upcoming matches.
“Regarding Ronaldo, he is motivated, and what I can see is that he is taking the competition very seriously, is totally dedicated to training and thinking about the next game against Mexico,” the striker said. “As for my partnership with Ronaldo, it’s a dream. Since I began playing on big stages I always imagined playing alongside him. I’m happy to play with my captain.”
The Mexico forward Raúl Jiménez, who plays his club football in Portugal with Benfica, is confident his team-mates can keep Ronaldo quiet at the Kazan Arena. The 26-year-old told the official Confederations Cup website: “It goes without saying that he’s a great player but we’re a great side too, and I’m sure we can stop him.”
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