Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughRonaldinho’s Resurgence - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Ronaldinho’s Resurgence - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Ronaldinho’s Resurgence

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, or Ronaldinho to most of us, is arguably one the 21st century’s greatest players. A player who innovated the game as we know it today; a player who was influential in creating the current dominance by Barcelona in European football and a player who can boast two FIFA World Player of the Year awards to his list of achievements. He is a player who is synonymous for lighting up stadiums with his magician-like feet and playing football with an ear to ear smile. If you had to picture the ultimate Brazilian footballer, Ronaldinho would tick every box; skill, pace, power, flair, balance, agility and the natural born ability to play the beautiful game beautifully. Why then has a player at only 31, with such undoubted talent and with two FIFA World Player of the Year awards to his name, only played six international games in three years and was failed to be picked for the 2010 World Cup? Equally why is a player of such ability and importance to European sides in recent history, now applying his trade in a league where most of his team mates dream of the opportunity to move across the Atlantic to one of Europe’s top leagues?

Ronaldinho like many of his South American counterparts could not get to Europe quick enough in his younger years, but now in 2011, those who came over in such vast numbers are frantically seeking a one way ticket home. It has been an ever growing problem across Europe in recent years, particularly with Brazilian players, who are prone to having disagreements with staff and teammates alike. Couple this with the pressure of stardom and the benefits that come with the footballer’s lifestyle, many a player can lose their focus on the game and in turn see their performances and relationships at clubs degrade. For Ronaldinho after reaching the pinnacle of the game in 2004 and 2005, where he received the FIFA World Player of the Year award in consecutive years, the expectation upon him was crippling. After his performances began to slip from the impeccable standards of past seasons, the 2008 Barcelona season provided us with a view of Ronaldinho we were unaware existed. Not only had the smile left the Brazilian’s face, but he seemed to lack confidence and looked petulant on the pitch. Off the field there were reports that the once keen trainer had begun turning up late for training and had been seen in Barcelona clubs and bars in the early hours. It appeared the one they called “El Gaucho” had lost his love for the game and after a premature end to his 2008 season due to injury, Barcelona chairman Joan Laporta claimed Ronaldinho needed a new challenge and shipped him to AC Milan for £14.5million.

The Italian challenge was a breath of fresh air for the Brazilian and shades of the old Ronaldinho began to ooze out of his performances. With a record of 29 goals in 116 games, it was a far cry from his heyday, but an improvement none the less. However, after with battles with fitness and fluctuations in on field performances and with his weight (an on running problem since his Barcelona days), rumours began to circle that AC Milan wanted to offload Ronaldinho and his colossal drain on the wage bill. In January of 2011 Ronaldinho joined Brazilian club Flamengo after reaching an agreement with AC Milan to terminate his contract. Ronaldinho’s European show had come to an end, and in turn provided him with another chance to reinvent himself back in his homeland. Many have followed suit, the likes of Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima (Ronaldo), Luis Fabiano, Fred, Adriano and Robinho (temporarily on loan) among overs, have all made the switch back to Brazil in search of a new start for their career. Similarly to Ronaldinho, disagreements at clubs, off field accusations and dips in form have all forced the choice. However, why is this case? Even at the ripe old age of 35 Spaniard Michel Salgado is applying his trade for Blackburn in the Premier League, while Ryan Giggs in the 2010-2011 season was influential in Manchester United’s trophy successes at the age of 37. So why not the Brazilians?

One recurring trend in the decision for Brazilian’s to move home is a fall in fame or importance. When playing in Brazil the likes of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Robinho were the stars of the show and the key men in their respective sides. Similarly when Ronaldinho moved initially to PSG (France) in 2001, he was soon a fan favourite, which gained him a move to the Catalan club Barcelona in the first place. After his move to Spain his success was phenomenal and he managed to take Spain and Europe by storm, again becoming a club’s prized possession and rightly was awarded the individual accolades in response. However, after dips in form and the rise of other sensational players in Barcelona’s ranks, the focus began to derive away from the Brazilian. In the 2007-2008 campaign the Lionel Messi whirlwind was gaining momentum and the necessary plaudits. Coupled with Ronaldinho’s dip in form, the fans at the Camp Nou had a new favourite, a new star, and for Ronaldinho he could not cope. It was the first time he was not a club’s main man. Similarly, after Robinho’s move to City he was faced with an influx of new players and fell down the pecking order after lackluster performances. Brazilian’s know though, that a move back to their homeland will bring them the same level of fan devotion as they had in their prime years and in turn will bring their career back in line with what they are used to.

It has certainly seemed profitable for Ronaldinho. At his unveiling in Flamengo 22,000 fans celebrated his arrival at the Maracanã and a level of support more akin to his glory days was apparent. Since January, Ronaldinho has scored 12 goals in 18 games for the Rio de Janeiro side and has become one of the stand out players in the league. Similarly, the famous buck-toothed smile is visible every time he steps out on to the pitch and his fitness is commendable. The rapid improvement has brought plaudits from all levels, but most significantly from Brazil manager Mano Menezes who has awarded “Gaucho” with only his second cap since 2009, where he will face Ghana in a friendly tonight (5th September).

The contrast in player from before and after the move is gargantuan and there seemingly appears some logic in the Brazilians’ decision to return home way before their years. It’s a mystery which many fail to understand; why players of such undoubted talent decide to give up the opportunity of playing in the world’s best leagues to have the easy life at home? However, by only looking at Ronaldinho’s face the happiness seems to be back in his football, which in turn produces the kind of performances which captivate fans in their thousands and influences so many young footballers. To not see Ronaldinho playing in the Champions League or in a World Cup is a travesty, but at the rate of improvement he is enjoying at Flamengo, all he needs is an impressive performance against Ghana at Craven Cottage, along with the support of Mano Menezes and that could all change. After all the World Cup is in Brazil in 2014, the country he finds both success and happiness in and it would be a fool to suggest we might not have a Brazilian version of Ryan Giggs terrorizing European and International defences come 2014.

David P Harrison

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