Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo will not play against bitter rivals Barcelona at the International Champions Cup on Saturday.
Ronaldo missed Madrid's first two ICC matches in California – a penalty shoot-out loss to Manchester United and a 4-1 rout to Manchester City – as he was vacationing with his pregnant girlfriend and in Asia for sponsor commitments.
And the four-time Ballon d'Or winner – at the centre of accusations that he defrauded Spanish tax authorities out of €14.7million after helping Madrid to LaLiga and Champions League glory last season – will be absent from Miami, despite organiser's best efforts.
"Unfortunately, Ronaldo's personal commitments precluded him from being here," Relevent Sports chairman Charlie Stillitano told the Miami Herald on Friday.
"He really wanted to be here. This is not a diva situation. He was hoping that he could make it. He waited until today to let us know, but it just didn't work out.
"Mr. [Stephen] Ross did everything possible to get him here, and Cristiano said he was very grateful for that. I'm extremely disappointed, but we still have the two best teams and the top stars minus one."
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross – who runs Relevent Sports – pulled out all the stops to get Ronaldo to his stadium, including having a private jet waiting for the 32-year-old Portuguese forward.
"We've reached out, we've done everything," Ross said Thursday, per the Herald. "That weekend, he has some complex issues as you all know, back in Spain. I've got a plane waiting. He hasn't said finally no. We’ll probably know relatively soon."
While the news came as somewhat of a blow to the organizers of the event, and even to ESPN, who have gone all out to cover the second Clasico to be held outside of Spain , Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane says the announcement has done nothing to change his side's approach.
“He’s on vacation and he has to take advantage of that also," the French coach said. "I think the rest of us, we’re ready to play tomorrow and Cristiano will be with us the 5th to start the season.”