Real Madrid's lackluster season may take a turn for the worse after reports emerged of a pay crisis between Cristiano Ronaldo and the Los Blancos. Ronaldo, 32, signed his last deal with Real in November 2016 until June 2021 but is reported to be demanding another new contract to bring his salary on par with Lionel Messi and Neymar, the top two earners in world football. He has reportedly reacted with fury to Lionel Messi's new deal at Barcelona. The Argentine superstar penned a new three-year deal to extend his stay in Catalonia until 2021. According to reports in Spain, Ronaldo is angry that Messi is now commanding a salary of 640,000 euro-a-week or 100 million euros over the course of his contract. Real Madrid star Ronaldo is believed to earn just over 400,000 euros a week and is unlikely to be offered an increase. According to the Press Association, Neymar takes home a weekly salary of 600,000 euros after tax, also. But, according to various reports in the Spanish media, Real president Florentino Perez is unwilling to offer the floundering Portuguese striker a salary hike, according to Reuters. Ronaldo collected a joint-record fifth Ballon d'Or award in December but has only scored four times in La Liga this season, a huge factor in the Spanish and European champions limp title defense. Real has fallen a remarkable 19 points behind runaway league leaders Barcelona and is currently fourth in the standings, trailing second-placed Atletico Madrid by 10 points and third-placed Valencia by eight, although it has played one game less. Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said Wednesday that he cannot foresee Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the club.
"I can't imagine Real Madrid without Cristiano, this is his club and the one where he needs to be," Zidane told a news conference ahead of Real's Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg against Leganes.
"We all know what people are talking about outside the club, but inside he has to just think about playing, as always. I only want to talk about his performances."
"Everyone loves him for everything he has done. We are in a difficult moment right now but he is still with us," Zidane added.
"Cristiano is old enough to deal with the club himself. I only talk to him about what goes on on the pitch. He manages what goes on off it."
However, Real great Manolo Sanchis said Wednesday that the Madrid club should resist Ronaldo's demands for a bumper new contract even if it leads to their all-time top scorer leaving the La Liga club.
"Madrid doesn't need to increase his [Ronaldo's] salary," Sanchis told Spanish radio station Cadena Cope on Wednesday. "If Madrid collapses this season, he will be on his way out. [Alfredo] Di Stefano left Madrid so anyone can leave now without it causing a big drama."