Is it time for Corinthians to drop Ronaldo?

March 12, 2010 at 09:17 9 comments

Ronaldo in action vs Medellin

On Wednesday night, Corinthians put on a decent performance away to Medellin in Bogota and earned a valuable point in their second match in the Libertadores.

Tactically, Mano Menezes seemed to have got everything right after setting his team up to play on the counterattack. Despite the odd scare, the Brazilians controlled most of the match because the defence and midfield covered vast quantities of ground closing down the Colombians. The only area that wasn’t functioning was the attack.  Embarrassingly overweight and completely ineffective, Ronaldo cut a forlorn figure up front.

The three times FIFA world player of the year is now 33 and with his talent should still have a few good years left in him. But on Wednesday, he was a bystander; barely moving out of a small 10 metre channel he’d carved out for himself. In one remarkable scene, Ronaldo was left statuesque as Jorge Henrique and co raced through from deep positions to mount yet another attack that did not include their number nine. As the match wore on, and Ronaldo’s huffing and puffing increased, he began to look more and more like someone’s dad who had turned up to watch his kid play and was then asked to make up the numbers in a kick about on the local park.

Despite his obvious lack of fitness, the ex Brazil man is trundled out every time the Musketeers have a big match. But so far this season, the player has posed little threat.

Mano Menezes though, continues to defend the forward. On Wednesday’s performance the coach said that Ronaldo was the only player who was not required to track back and mark as this is something he has never done in his career. Menezes also believed that Ronaldo’s mere presence alone caused enough worry to Medellin that they left two defenders on him throughout the game. This interpretation, however, was at odds with many sports commentators in São Paulo who regarded Ronaldo’s latest performance as something of an embarrassment to himself and Corinthians.

Ronaldo joined the Parque São Jorge outfit in early 2009. Despite injuries and fitness problems, he had a good season scoring an impressive 23 goals. But in the Timão’s 15 games this year (13 in the Paulistão and 2 in the Libertadores), Ronaldo has appeared just six times scoring once in the 1-1 draw with Mirassol. When you look at the overall statistics, most would agree that 24 goals in 44 games is not a bad return. But watching him right now, it’s hard to believe that Ronaldo will be able to maintain that sort of strike rate.

2010 is Corinthians centenary year. The constant taunt from their rivals is that the Musketeers are the only major club in Brazil not to have won the Libertadores. Because of this, winning this competition has become an obsession. At the end of last season, Ronaldo promised the club and its fanatical supporters that he would be back to something like his peak fitness for the tournament. Sadly, this is not the case and Ronaldo looks more out of shape than ever.

The forward has always received ‘special treatment’ from his club. Ronaldo has been given a large amount of time off for personal and business commitments and is often ‘rested’ for the not so important games. Publically at least, his physical condition has not been criticized by anyone at Corinthians. Flamengo’s Adriano has not been so lucky and there was a big hoo-ha in Brazil last week when it came out that he was 8 kilos overweight. Till now, no one has ever revealed the excess baggage that Ronaldo is carrying but it must be considerably more than that.

While most coaches and players argue that the best way to get match fit is simply to play, there seems to be a difference of opinion at Corinthians. Ronaldo often misses games because according to coach Mano Menezes, the player is on a special training programme to whip him back into shape.

Most strikers in Ronaldo’s condition would not even get near the bench. So, why do Corinthians persist with a player who is unfit and lacking form? Obviously, the first factor to consider is his reputation. We’re talking about the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer: a player of unquestionable talent. He still has the footwork and that magic touch that can create something from nothing and Ronaldo could pop up with a goal at any moment. So, the argument is that if you keep him out there long enough, he’s bound to score. He may even do it this weekend against Santo André (if he plays). All strikers go through slumps. The problem with Ronaldo is that it’s not just the lack of goals. He’s playing very badly and is physically not up to making any meaningful contribution to the team.

The second factor is sponsorship. Just like the situation with Adriano at Flamengo, there is pressure on the coach to field the star attraction in the major games. Without Ronaldo and Adriano, Corinthians and Flamengo would not be bringing in the kind of money that is currently swelling their coffers. Last week for example, Fla imposed a three-match ban on Adriano following his much-publicised spat with girlfriend Joana Machado. That was quickly reduced to two games and Adriano will be available against Vasco at the weekend.

The question at Corinthians is how long will Mano Menezes give Ronaldo before he concedes that his side perform better without him? It’s not that the Musketeers are short of options up front. Dentinho is in a rich vein of form. The 21-year-old has scored in his last four games and for two of these he was on the bench. On Wednesday, Corinthians came to life in attack only after Dentinho came on and Ronaldo was finally hauled off and replaced by Souza. The number 19 has scored only nine goals since his arrival in 2009 and has struggled to make an impact at Corinthians. But Souza’s work rate and physical presence have never been in doubt, and when he partnered Dentinho, Corinthians started to pull the opposition about. It therefore came as no surprise when the Brazilians’ equalized from an exquisite strike by Dentinho – a goal the player described as the most beautiful of his career.

Mano Menezes is now facing something of a dilemma. Corinthians have a top four clash with an in-form Santo André in the Campeonato Paulista on Sunday. The club has to take something from that match or risk dropping out of the playoff places. But midweek they’re at home to Cerro Porteño in the Libertadores and this usually means that the coach puts out a reserve side in the Paulista. It will be interesting to see what Menezes does on Sunday and despite the importance of the Santo André match, there’s a possibility that neither Ronaldo nor Dentinho will start.  Menezes could surprise us and field both players. But with Ronaldo in the team, Dentinho usually gets shoved out on to the flanks and there he’s at his least effective.

Again we return to the central issue: what to do about Ronaldo? A few weeks ago, the coach said that it was difficult to drop a player like the Phenomenon. Menezes has now backtracked a little by saying that nobody’s place is guaranteed in the starting line-up. But has Menezes really got the bottle to put Ronaldo on the bench? The number 9 has been there before but only when he was coming back from injury. Being benched now would be a serious blow to Ronaldo’s pride – though the threat of not starting could be exactly the kind of push he needs to get himself back into shape.

Ronaldo has come through some major injuries in his career and it would be foolhardy to write him off. The striker is only 33, and even a moderately fit Ronaldo would give Corinthians a considerable edge against any opposition.

Ronaldo remains a popular and well-loved player not just at the Parque São Jorge but throughout Brazil and the world. And, it’s no exaggeration to say that the majority of football fans want to see him performing at something like his best. Ronaldo playing well, scoring goals and finishing his career on a high is what we all hope for.

The number 9 has recently signed an extension to his contract that will keep him at the club until the end of next year. But after his recent performances and an inability to shed some weight, even diehard Corinthians fans are beginning to question his motivation. But a goal or two in the next few games, and his current poor run and fitness problems will be swiftly forgotten.

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Entry filed under: Brazilian football, Corinthians. Tags: , , , , , , .

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. robdog  |  March 12, 2010 at 14:26

    This has been Corinthians’ season so far:
    Felipe Saves
    Dentinho Scores

    That formula might work against teams like São Caetano or Mirassol, but not against teams like São Paulo or Internacional or any other teams that O Coringão might meet in the knockout phase of the Libertadores. I am sure that Mano Menezes will figure something out. So far, he has demonstrated that he is the man to lead O Timão.

    Reply
  • 2. Martin  |  March 12, 2010 at 22:51

    “As the match wore on, and Ronaldo’s huffing and puffing increased, he began to look more and more like someone’s dad who had turned up to watch his kid play and was then asked to make up the numbers in a kick about on the local park.”

    A great line! And sadly, very true. Is Ronaldo given the luxury to skip practices that Adriano has at Flamengo? I am trying to figure out how he has gained so much weight because last year, before his injury I thought Ronaldo was looking pretty good. The question as pitacodogringo asks is will Menezes have the bravery to bench Ronaldo for the good of the team if he continues to remain out of shape?

    Personally I am more enjoying watching Santos and Sao Paulo in this year’s Paulistao.

    Reply
  • 3. abay kassa  |  March 16, 2010 at 04:57

    i pray to c him in world cup &i love him much

    Reply
  • 4. davi paulinho  |  March 18, 2010 at 17:49

    Ironic that he just scored the winning goal in a Copa Libertadores match just after this article appeared.

    Reply
    • 5. pitacodogringo  |  March 18, 2010 at 21:07

      ironic indeed but it was always on the cards. fortunately, i covered all the angles in the post haha

      and saying that scoring the winning goal was the only thing he did during the match on wednesday night doesn’t help much really haha

      Reply
  • 6. Nel  |  March 23, 2010 at 01:24

    This guy has been known to make people shut their mouths. Whenever someone like you tries to write him off, he responds. Hopefully he will real this article and make you feel ashamed of yourself. If I were you, I would never count him off until he hangs up his boots.

    Reply
    • 7. pitacodogringo  |  March 25, 2010 at 10:43

      iif you had read the post a little more carefully, you would have seen that i didn’t write him off and that i want Ronaldo to succeed. But his weight, form and attitude need to be addressed because they are creating problems for the Musketeers. Incidentally, Ronaldo was booed by some Corinthians fans after the 1-0 loss to Paulista FC last night. Corinthians have now dropped out of the playoff places. but there’s a huge derby vs São Paulo on Sunday so this is the perfect chance for Ronaldo to redeem himself

      Reply
      • 8. ronny  |  October 16, 2010 at 17:56

        I think every great player as they get older loses pace and also maybe the motivation they had as a younger player.

        I think that this is only natural but ronaldo still shows some magical moments – he was truly a legend in my eyes also!

  • 9. CaIndependiente  |  March 25, 2010 at 13:28

    El gordo es un Fenomeno

    Ronaldo is the Best and the Corinthians Fans must be happy to have a big Player like Ronaldo

    Greetings from Argentina

    Independiente King of libertadores 7 Times

    Forca Sao Paolo
    The best team in Brasil 🙂

    Reply

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Author

The man who came up with: Messi carrying Argentina. Neymar carrying Brazil. British Airways carrying England. My name is Jon Cotterill. I am an English football commentator for TV Globo in São Paulo, Brazil. Currently we're broadcasting two live Campeonato Brasileiro or Campeonato Paulista games per week plus our magazine show, Footbrazil to 180 countries. + Eu trabalho como narrador na TV Globo em São Paulo, Brasil. Atualmente, nos transmitimos dois jogos ao vivo do Campeonato Brasileiro ou Campeonato Paulista por semana e nosso programa de futebol semanal, Footbrazil.

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© Jon Cotterill and Pitacodogringo's Brazilian football site, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jon Cotterill and Pitacodogringo's Brazilian football site with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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