Real Madrid have called for the "utmost respect" to be shown to Cristiano Ronaldo amid suggestions from officials in Spain that he could face jail time for tax fraud, saying the Portugal captain is "up to date with all of his tax obligations."
A group of European media outlets have reported that Ronaldo directed at least €150 million in income through the British Virgin Islands tax haven since 2009, and that the Spanish tax authorities have been investigating his affairs for 12 months already.
As soon as the story broke, Ronaldo's agency Gestifute strongly denied any wrongdoing, saying that all of its clients are fully compliant with all of their tax obligations.
Madrid have now issued a statement saying Ronaldo had documents proving the allegations are unfounded.
The statement read: "In view of the stories published over recent days and in consideration of the certificate issued by the Spanish Tax Agency which confirms that our player Cristiano Ronaldo is up to date with all of his tax obligations, Real Madrid C.F. call for the utmost respect to be shown towards Cristiano Ronaldo, whose conduct has been absolutely exemplary throughout all of his time at our club."
Widespread reports in Spain on Wednesday said that the Fiscalía Provincial de Madrid prosecution service has confirmed it is pursuing five players named in the Football Leaks allegations -- four of whom have played for Real Madrid and four who are represented by Jorge Mendes.
Ex-Madrid players Xabi Alonso, Angel Di María and Ricardo Carvalho are reportedly being charged, while current Monaco striker Radamel Falcao and Blancos full-back Fabio Coentrao are being investigated.
Official sources have not yet clarified whether Ronaldo's affairs are currently being looked at.
The Real Madrid statement comes after the president of the Gestha union, which represents lower-level workers at Spain's tax authority, said he expects Ronaldo to face tax fraud charges in court.
Gestha's secretary general, Jose Maria Mollinedo, also told Catalan radio show "El mon a RAC 1" that Ronaldo could face "six years in prison as a minimum."
Mollinedo added: "The reports about Cristiano Ronaldo look very much like he has been able to commit a fraud on more than €160m. We are looking at a serious tax offence. He could get two years in prison for each year. If the investigation is open for three years, that means six years in prison, as a minimum."
Ronaldo is not the only Madrid player to be named in the documents released to European media by the "Football Leaks" website, with teammates Pepe, Fabio Coentrao and Luka Modric also facing allegations over their taxes.
El Mundo claimed that Portugal defender Pepe had routed €3.7m in image rights income through an offshore company. He has responded via Instagram to say he had previously volunteered information about his image rights to the authorities to ensure he paid all taxes in full.
"After the information which has appeared in the media, I inform you that I am up to date with all my tax obligations," Pepe said. "In previous years when the tax criteria changed in Spain, voluntarily and before any requirement or intervention from the Tax Authority, I went to them to regularise my image rights income. I want to thank my new tax advisors at Senn Ferrero for their advice. I attach the official document to show that this is all in the past, and I do not have to talk again about this issue."
Ahead of Wednesday's Champions League Group D game at home to Borussia Dortmund, Madrid captain Sergio Ramos told a news conference: "It's a very delicate subject. I believe in law and justice. There's nobody better than these authorities to make such decisions.
"Personally I am very relaxed as everything I have earned throughout my life has been placed on the table. Some [reports] will be true, and others will be lies aimed at destabilising, but I don't think this will have an effect on the team's performance."