Ronaldo lends support to his troubled football agents

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil striker Ronaldo said on Friday that his two agents, who have been charged with taking part in a corruption scheme in Rio de Janeiro, were innocent and complained that footballers were portrayed in his homeland as being ignorant. 

The Real Madrid player, in an interview with the Esporte Total programme on the Bandeirantes television network, also complained that “a lot of nonsense” had been written about the 1998 World Cup final against France, when he played only hours after being taken ill. 

Ronaldo, 27, has been reluctant to talk about his agents Alexandre Martins and Reinaldo Pitta, who have been involved with him since he was 13-years-old.  

They have been charged with taking part in a widely-publicised scheme also involving former tax officials from the Rio de Janeiro state government. 

The pair spent nearly three months in jail on charges of fiscal fraud and illegally transferring money abroad before winning bail last month. They face up to 11 years’ imprisonment if found guilty. 

Ronaldo remembered how Martins and Pitta signed him up as an adolescent, shortly after he had failed a trial with Rio de Janeiro club Flamengo, and later helped transfer him to Dutch club PSV Eindhoven for millions of dollars. 

“Alexandre and Reinaldo were the people who helped me when I was 13,” said Ronaldo. “They believed in my talent.” 

He added: “It’s a special case because a lot of people are involved. I have no doubt they will prove their innocence.” 

Ronaldo, who confirmed this week that he is separating from his wife Milene Domingues after less than four years of marriage, said he had always tried to keep his private life out of the public glare. 

“I don’t want to expose my privacy to anyone,” he said. “I’m famous because I’m a footballer, not because I married Milene.” 

He also criticised the way footballers were portrayed in Brazil. 

“Here, the image is that footballers are stupid, that they can’t even speak properly. 

“Footballers are seen as players who earn lots of money and don’t know what to do with it other than buy cars. 

“Abroad, you are respected as if you were a film star.” 

He was also unhappy with stories which appeared after the 1998 World Cup final, when Ronaldo played despite reportedly suffering a convulsive fit hours before kick-off. 

“They talked a lot of nonsense ... like that I had an agreement with the French government,” he said. 

“Then they said I chickened out – but it was exactly the opposite. It was an act of courage to play.” – Reuters 

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