The legend has left the field and wandered into a life of partying and fatherhood. The Phenomenon is thus no more. R9 aka Ronaldo Luis Nazario De Lima officially hung up his goal-laden boots last week and has brought down the curtain on a highly successful career that many amazingly thought was not quite fulfilled.
For a player who won a record equalling 3 FIFA World Player of the Year awards and 2 FIFA World Cups to be considered a talent whom never fully fulfilled his magical potential is astounding and is the perfect evidential riposte to those who do not rate him amongst the games pantheon of legends. How can a player who never lived up to his potential still be THAT good!.
I don’t subscribe to the theory his career was never what it could have been. Why waste time lamenting something when there has been so much cause for celebration? I could sit here all day and create an article full of descriptive lexicon about how Ronaldo cut through defences with alarming ease and was the perfect mesh of speed and power as he reduced mean back-lines to quivering wrecks. However everyone who saw Ronaldo in his prime years of 1996 to 2002 has the electrifying image of the boy from Rio de Janeiro forever imprinted on the mind. This is, after all, the very man who after knocking Manchester United out of the Champions League almost single handedly was the recipient of an amazing standing ovation from the bewildered Stretford End.
Even when he came back after consecutive career-threatening knee injuries and slightly modified his game to complete the storybook comeback at the 2002 World Cup he was still scoring at an almost constant rate despite off-field controversies and a growing waistline detracting from his on-field accomplishments. His later so-called decline has left people forgetting that he always found the net with such ease it makes a mockery of the strikers regularly acclaimed as “natural finishers”. Many so-called “best players in the world” often burst onto the scene with an extraordinary display of unplayable form yet eventually fade away under the pressure to maintain the high standards. At present Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the only players operating at such a superior level over a number of seasons yet they took their time to reach such a level, arguably not reaching these untouchable heights until into their 20′s. Ronaldo was untouchable at 18. By 20 he was FIFA World Player of the Year.
As I mentioned, there is no use in describing a player as universally known and revered like Ronaldo. Whilst not all great players are silverware-laden, Ronaldo’s career can be best summed up by listing the honours he has accomplished throughout his 17-year career, the majority of which he was truly immense even if critics wish to portray otherwise. Ronaldo. R9. “Il Fenomino”. Retire in Peace amigo.
Club Statistics (Games/Goals)
1993-94 Cruzerio. 45/41
1994-96 PSV Eindhoven. 58/54
1996-97 FC Barcelona. 49/47
1997-02 Internazionale. 99/59
2002-07 Real Madrid. 164/98
2007-08 AC Milan. 20/9
2009-11 Corinthians. 38/18
International Statistics (Games/Goals)
1994-2006 Brazil. 97/62
Campeonato Mineiro 1994
Copa do Brasil 1993
KNVB Cup 1996
Johan Cruiff-Schaal 1996
Supercopa de Espana 1996
Copa Del Rey 1997
Uefa Cup Winners Cup 1997
Uefa Cup 1998
Intercontinental Cup 2002
Supercopa de Espana 2003
La Liga 2003, 2007
Campeonato Paulista 2009
Copa do Brasil 2009
FIFA World Cup 1994, 2002
Copa America 1997
Supercopa Libertadores Top Scorer 93-94
Campeonato Minerio Top Scorer 93-94
Eredivisie Top Scorer 94-95
La Liga Top Scorer 96-97, 03-04
FIFA World Player of the Year 96, 97, 02
European Golden Boot 96-97
La Liga Foreign Player off the Year 96-97
Cup Winners Cup Top Scorer 96-97
Ballon D’or 97, 02
Copa America Most Valuable Player 97
UEFA Cup Most Valuable Player 97-98
Serie A Footballer of the Year 97-98
World Cup Golden Ball 98
Copa America Top Scorer 99
World Cup Top Scorer 2002
Serie A Player of the Decade 97-07
Campeonato Paulista Best Player 09
Football is a sport which, especially within the UK, is built upon pride, determination and passion. These three qualities are the minimum requirements from most British fans for the players who represent their teams. If a player is terrible, they will still respect him if he is a grafter and a trier. And vice versa, an enigmatic superstar who remains aloof and lazy can find himself at the mercy of the fans despite the undoubted quality he may bring to the squad.
When the focus is transferred from clubs to the international arena, another aspect comes into play in the minds of the fans. Patriotism. Essentially an uncontrollable and dominating combination of the aforementioned pride and passion, representing your country is seen as the pinnacle of a career and something to cherish. Therefore it is galling and even insulting to the majority of fans when a player decides to opt out of representing his nation in the guise of taking “international retirement”.
To the average patriot in the street rejecting the chance to belt out your nation’s anthem and live the dreams of millions is unthinkable. To reject the opportunity to become a hero to millions of school children and wear the nation’s hallowed badge is unforgivable. Yet it is becoming a more popular course of action by the modern player, to retire before their natural time and dismiss any overture to return. The issue has once again exploded into the public mind with a sudden and unexpected plethora of retirements just before the first international games of the 2010/11 season. Whilst smaller nations tend to see retirements from their bigger stars, i.e. Dmitar Berbatov from Bulgaria, it has come as an unwelcome surprise to England fans to see utility squad members Wes Brown and Paul Robinson duck out from representing their country whilst still being top-level performers. What is perhaps most insulting is that, at the ages of barely 30, both still have much to add to the squad rather than being brittle, broken-down pro’s. In recent times the other home nations have also been a victim of this new modern phenomenon of retiring early.
Whilst Ryan Giggs might be one of the greatest players this game has seen on a club level, for Wales the ex-captain often flattered to deceive before bringing his 17-year career to an end to “prolong his club career”. And prolong it he has, continuing to play into his late 30′s to a higher level than most players a decade younger. Extending his Manchester United career is of no concern to the Welsh fans however, or to any other international fan who’s player has retired for this dubious motive. Paul Scholes; Alan Shearer; Jamie Carragher; Simon Davies; Barry Ferguson; Damien Johnson; just some of the British names to abandon their nations prematurely. Is this a valid reason? I dare say in the fan’s eyes it is paramount to treason. If playing for a country, representing your fellow people even, is the greatest honour in a sportsman’s short career then how can these people turn their back on it? What evidence is there so support this stance. Granted, Giggs and Shearer have played on a lot longer at the higher level than expected, yet so did Zinedine Zidane, Lilian Thuram and most of the Italian team, all of whom went to the 2006 World Cup Final.
The other aspect of international retirement is the players who take it for personal reason’s not connected to on-field activities. Once again, referring back to the dreamer in the pub who never had the talent or drive to make it to the top, is spurring the chance to inspire fellow citizens and represent them in the modern gladiator arena of sport just because of personal reasons simply elevating one’s importance above that of the nation. It may have shades of communist ideologies about it but placing yourself above the needs of your state is not something agreeable with the average football fan who wants players to sweat and bleed for the flag. Steven Ireland is his country’s most talented player yet is missing out on his prime as he doesn’t like fellow pro’s making fun of his hair. Robbie Savage ended his career in his peak due to a personal grudge against an admittedly difficult manager as did Roy Keane. Duncan Ferguson wished to spite the SFA and Wayne Bridge wanted away from the tabloid speculation and John Terry’s face.
International football can be tiresome, mentally extenuating and even pointless at times yet it is something that unites divided countries behind one anthem, one flag and one badge. To see those privileged few reject this chance is disgraceful and should not be something that enters your mind. A player should always be available for selection as David Beckham as endeavoured to do despite the obvious difficulties he has had to overcome to keep up with his hectic travel schedule. He believes in the badge on his shirt and despite his multi-million pound fortune has not forgotten what it means to the people on the building sites in his East London working class roots. To end, a much used quote from JFK. “Ask not what your country can do for you…but what you can do for your country”. It seems the modern, rich footballer has lost his sense of duty to his fellow citizen and has much to learn in what it is to be a true patriot.
After 6 years in the planning and one rollercoaster month, the 2010 World Cup has come, despite the initial scepticism and negativity surrounding an African hosting, to an exciting and memorable finale.
Possibly one of the most divisive competitions in recent memory, the tournament has seen many contrasting opinions from the fans and media alike. What one may have embraced, one has rejected. Of course we would not expect anything less in the mish-mash of the World’s greatest teams and the unique cultures they bring.
So here is my review of the greatest features of World Sport’s premier event.
Considering the world appeared concerned at the high crime rates and lack of infrastructure, to the relief of FIFA and the organising committee the tournament has been nothing but an unmitigated success amongst the occasional on-field controversy. There were no major reports of public disturbances during the month and the stadiums impressed just as well as any European offering. Throw in the rabid, party atmosphere of the country’s historically-disadvantaged Black population mixing with the White minority and the Rainbow nation has emerged from the competition with its international reputation improved. And to think we have yet to mention Nelson Mandela.
Hated by many yet loved in equal measure, the buzzing plastic instrument crashed into the public’s consciousness and earned the wrath and affection of the worldwide audience. Has any mere item of fan culture ever created such a controversy that it threatened to overshadow the entire tournament? Between liberals bemoaning the audacity of people telling South African’s to bin a staple of their game-going experience to traditionalists complaining about the racket, Vuvuzela’s have become 2010′s most well-known word. My opinion…they’re fantastic!
Following on from the off-field controversy with vuvuzela’s, the on-field controversy equally raged almost as soon as the first game got underway. Adidas’ Jabulani ball was roundly criticised (mainly by Nike-contracted players it must be said) for its unpredictable mid-air flight when walloped. Poor goalkeeping or tactics was never blamed for the errors, it was the Adidas’ boffins fault for apparently ruining the world cup.
Paul the Octopus
The unbelievable and surreal story came out of Germany during the group stages of an Octopus whom predicted, correctly, the outcomes of games. By the end of the tournament the multi-tentacled Paul had predicted 8 games out of 8 and was branded a traitor by Germany, an enemy and potential stew by Argentinians and was given honorary citizenship by Spain. Unbelievable!
Superstar. Greatest Ever. Passion. Comedy. Honesty (well, interview wise anyway). Heart. Mafia Suits. Presence. Enough said. Welcome back El Diego
Underdogs vs Wounded Dogs
Every World Cup ends with big names flopping and small names creating legacies. This tournament was no different. England, Italy and France almost appear finished as dominant forces for the next decade as their “golden generations” dwindle and scupper off into the twilight’s of their career with no sight of replacements. The underdog’s of this year were primarily surprise semi-finalist’s Uruguay and amazingly New Zealand, who although eliminated in the group phase as expected were the only team to finish unbeaten.
World Cup’s tend to be the tournaments which confirm player’s greatness. The stage where they push onto iconic status whilst the occasional player does well enough to earn that big-money move that was nowhere near the table pre-cup exploits. This tournament was extreme in both circumstances. Messi was decent and dangerous enough yet didn’t perform to the ridiculously high levels of last season’s vintage performances. Ronaldo and Rooney were terrible and Kaka was anonymous. Conversely, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller erupted onto the scene with irresistible displays not expected from rookies whilst disregarded and written-off Premier League “failures” like Robinho and Diego Forlan proved the class that made them big money buys in the first place.
All in all, whilst people may bemoan the tournament for being boring and too innovative in style and substance, its this unusual African ambience which will leave the 2010 FIFA World Cup a pleasant recollection in most memories. Roll on Brazil 2014.