Ronaldinho’s Back! Or Why Guns Work

by Robbie Blakeley

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

It’s official – two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, seemingly consigned to football’s has-been pile after five years at the Camp Nou theatre, announced his return to the big time in the rather less inspiring surroundings of Fulham’s Craven Cottage. Granted, the opposition was Ghana, not one of football’s big hitters, and granted they were down to ten men, but the touches and vision of the former master were there to see.

Ronaldinho’s return has come just at the right time; the Seleção are beginning to be overrun with exciting ball playing playmakers, the most promising of the lot being Paulo Henrique Ganso, forced to cede his number 10 shirt for the return of the king. A huge amount of congratulations must go to the former Barcelona and Milan forward for shedding the pounds and heading inside for cocoa and cuddles instead of clubs and cachaça.

Except how much really was down to self-discipline? How much was down to the force of violence, via unveiled threats, to force R10 to change his gallivanting ways and finally focus on what he is paid millions to do week in week out?

Let’s step briefly back in time to January 2011. Ronaldinho Gaucho had left AC Milan, where his stay was largely disappointing. Offers came in from the Premier League and the Brasileirão. His choice was seemingly straightforward – he would again line up for his boyhood team, the club where he started to make a name for himself – Gremio.

But he managed to alienate himself from the blue half of Porto Alegre by shunning them in favour of a mega bucks deal to move to Rio with 2009 national champions Flamengo. And this place ain’t known as the Marvelous City for nothing.

Thrust straight into the Campeonato Carioca (the Rio State Championship – think of it as watching Manchester United play the likes of Macclesfield Town for five months), Ronny D had the perfect platform to strut his stuff and show the world what they had been missing.

But there are a few perks to living in Rio, as I have found out. Namely, there are a lot of heaving clubs and a lot of hot girls. And given a choice between scoring in the net or the nightclub, Flamengo’s new acquisition chose the latter.

Things began to get out of hand as the national season kicked off in May, with Flamengo expected to mount a serious title challenge, only their new star barely hung around long enough to make a difference.

Cue the entrance of Jovem Fla, Flamengo’s biggest organised fan group. Translated as Fla Youth (as if Rio day care centres give toddlers the option of playing in the sand or signing up for their local football firm), leaders turned up at Flamengo’s training headquarters to let Ronny know in no uncertain terms his performances weren’t meeting expectations.

Probably best he sorts himself out – it’s much easier to convince someone to “sort themselves out” when you’re fingering the butt of a shiny metal object. Since July, when things came to a rather nasty altercation, the former night owl has been a changed man both on and off the field, resulting in a recall to the national squad and a chance, just possibly, at one final bow at a World Cup.

Because as he reminded the world on Monday, when his mind is on the game, there is no other Brazilian worthy of the coveted number 10 shirt.

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