Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says that tax fraud allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo could potentially affect the club and added that he hopes the controversy over the investigation is resolved soon.
A group of European media outlets have reported that Ronaldo routed at least €150 million in income through a British Virgin Islands tax haven since 2009, and that the Spanish tax authorities have been investigating his case for 12 months already.
Madrid have backed the Portugal captain by saying that his "conduct has been absolutely exemplary throughout all of his time at our club," while Ronaldo's agents Gestifute have also strongly denied any wrongdoing and on Thursday released financial records which show he earned €227.3m in 2015 but do not appear to pertain directly to the years under investigation by the authorities.
The documents released by "Football Leaks" allegedly show that Ronaldo's representatives constructed a complex network of companies in different countries to minimise the amount of tax he paid.
Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have not been included in Real Madrid's squad for Saturday's Spanish league match against Deportivo La Coruna. Madrid will be missing all three of their first-choice forwards, with Gareth Bale recovering from a foot injury.
Asked at a news conference ahead of Saturday evening's La Liga game at home to Deportivo La Coruna if top footballers would usually have no knowledge of their own finances, Los Blancos' coach replied that his players were clever and responsible for what was done in their name.
"We are talking about people, not just footballers, but people, who are very intelligent," Zidane said. "They know perfectly well what they do, what they have done, and what they must do.
"I hope that it is all clarified quickly and we want to just think about football and winning games. All this can affect us. I do not want to make comments out of turn. I hope that things are sorted out very quickly. We can only wait on that."
View image on Twitter
Real Madrid C.F.
This is our 19-man squad for Saturday's LaLiga match against @RCDeportivo.#HalaMadrid
2:36 PM - 9 Dec 2016
Madrid can set a new club record of 35 games unbeaten in all competitions in the clash at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu -- and also ensure that they will lead La Liga through the winter break, no matter what happens while they are away next week at the Club World Cup in Japan.
Depor, currently 16th in the table, have lost on their last nine visits to the Bernabeu, but travel in good cheer having thumped Real Sociedad 5-1 last weekend.
"It is a difficult game not just for their last result, but for the team they have," Zidane said. "It is a surprise to see them down in the table. We will try and be well prepared and start the game well."
Zidane said that Karim Benzema would be rested against Depor with fit-again Alvaro Morata making his first start since a hamstring injury suffered while playing for Spain in early November.
"Benzema is available, but we will give him a bit of a rest tomorrow as everyone else is available and we have a lot of games," the French coach said. "He will rest. Other players too. Alvaro will play tomorrow. He is fine now, training well, and wants to play."
Little-used James Rodriguez impressed during Wednesday's 2-2 Champions League draw with Borussia Dortmund, and Zidane said that as far as he was concerned the Colombia international would not leave Madrid in January.
"James is not leaving here, for sure," he said. "I do not want him to leave, that is clear. We will have to wait to see if he plays tomorrow."
Madrid were similarly well placed in all competitions two years ago, but suffered a dip in early 2015 which led to then-coach Carlo Ancelotti being fired that summer. Zidane said he saw no reason why this season should see any similar falling away of the team's results.
"I do not know what will happen in the future," he said. "There are many things that help all this, but the most important is the work we do every day. I do not see any reason for this to change, after the winter break, we will try and look after that.
"The players are the first ones who want that. We may have difficult moments in the future, but we are very motivated and if we keep working, we can keep this going."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan