Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Real Ronaldo

If I went down to the park today and approached a group of young lads playing football and asked them what their opinions were on Ronaldo, then they'd probably be quick to make reference to a certain 26-year-old Portuguese star who currently parades around in the white of Madrid.

"No", I would say. "I mean this guy", as I hold up one of the many undignified pictures (below -right) of 'The Original Ronaldo', sporting a unkept head of hair, his once slender gut bulging over his shorts and looking as far removed from the class act he once was as humanly possible.

As a chorus of distasteful comments sounded out from the youths, I'd say with assured confidence, "This man is the real Ronaldo!".

That's right kids, before the perma-tanned and uber-groomed Ronaldo burst on to scene with Sporting Lisbon and later Manchester United, a player by the same name was already widely regarded as the most lethal finisher in football.

Some, at the time of Ronaldo's ascendancy would have dared to argue that Ronaldo was heir to Pele's throne as the golden boy of Brazilian football, a man who when he called time on his decorated career, would forever be referenced in football folklore as one of the greats.

Perhaps not all of those with that view way back when would feel the same now, but many would certainly have thought it at the time that a Brazilian by the name of Ronaldo could eclipse the great Pele.

Ronaldo Luiz Nazario da Lima enjoyed a prosperous career that spanned 18 years from 1993 in Brazil with Cruziero and ending somewhat ungracefully in 2011 in his native with Corinthians.

He prospered in Holland with PSV, in Spain with Barcelona and Real Madrid and in Italy with Inter and AC Milan, before returning home to play out his remaining days on native soil.

Starting out in Brazil, it was Brazil legend Jairzinho who helped Ronaldo secure a move to Cruziero after the young Brazilian was turned down by his favourite team growing up -Flamengo.

In his first season with Cruziero, a 17-year-old Ronaldo led the Brazilian club to their first Copa do Brasil Championship. On route to the championship Ronaldo proved prolific in front of goal, a hallmark he would continue throughout his career.

In 14 appearances Ronaldo amassed a scoring return of 12 goals in what was to be his one and only season with Cruziero.

Ronaldo's early exploits in Brazil and a surprise inclusion to the Brazil national team for the 1994 World Cup (despite not playing) were enough to pique the interest of Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.

Influenced by Brazil team-mate Romario, who had previously played at PSV, Ronaldo left Brazil for Holland and PSV and in his first season with the Dutch club the young Brazilian marksman scored 30 league goals.

In Ronaldo's second season in Holland much of his time was spent on the treatment table because of a knee injury. Depsite only making 13 appearances in the league, Ronaldo managed to net on twelve occasions.

During his time in Holland, Ronaldo won the Dutch Cup and was the league's top scorer in 1995.

At the beginning of the 1996-1997 season Ronaldo's reputation had gone global and Europe's elite were keeping close tabs on the Brazilian wonderkid.

Barcelona came calling shortly after and PSV were to lose their prized asset in exchange for £16 million, as Ronaldo headed for Camp Nou.

It was at Barcelona under the guardianship of Bobby Robson, where the Brazilian really began to flourish and project himself as a global phenomenon.

At aged 20, after completing his one and only season in Barcelona colours, Ronaldo became the youngest player to win FIFA's World Player of the Year accolade. In the same season, Ronaldo finished runner up for the coverted Ballon D'or honour.

The Brazilian played in Holland with PSV, before moving to Spain with Barcelona. It was at the Nou Camp where Ronaldo made his name. His pace, power and trickery dismantled defences in La Liga.

Ronaldo became a phenomenon in Spain. He simply terrified his opposition and soon comparisons with the great Pele were being made about Barcelona's young Brazilian.
His first stint in Spain was brief. Despite the embaressment of youtube clips dedicated to Ronaldo's time spent at the Nou Camp, Ronaldo spent just one season with the Catalan side.
In Barcelona colours Ronaldo both glided and bustled his way through defences and showed in routine fashion just how prolific he had become. In Holland Ronaldo was resounding success but it was in Barcelona where the Brazilian became one of the most recognised and deadly finishers on the planet.
His reputation swelled in Spain and after just one season at Barcelona Ronaldo moved to Italy with Inter Milan who invested £19 million in the South American sensation.

Regarded as one of the best players of his generation, Ronaldo never won the Champions League.
Ronaldo's career was not without controversy. On numerous occasions, the Brazilian made headlines for the wrong reasons.

Hours before the World Cup Final in 1998 Ronaldo was said to have had a ceasure and rumours spread that Brazil's star man would miss the Final. The event is still shrouded in mystery and speculation. A visually unfit Ronaldo did play in the Final, but Ronaldo looked tired and tormented. He was in no fit state to be playing in a World Cup final and it showed.

He may be better known as The Fat Ronaldo these days, but during his playing days most notably with Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid the three time World Player of the Year was without doubt the best footballer on the planet, and by quite a margin.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Fickle nature of the English Press.

The English press certainly love to do their work in extremes, don't they!

Relentless they were in publishing every minute detail when Wayne Rooney and England endured a miserable World Cup campaign.

Fastforward a few weeks and the press printed as much as they possibly could (and some...) about Mr. Rooney's much publicized affair and they were duly on hand last weekend to cream in their collective pants for days on end when the England target man 'returned to form' with a stunning overhead volley to sink Manchester City in the Manchster derby.

When they [the press] want to paint a picture of a hero, they paint a god and when they want to paint a villian, they paint the devil.

Okay it was a great goal. I get it. But please, can the press move on to something else. And sharpish!

Indeed people will be talking about that goal for years to come. But I hope we are not to take that literally. The English press have already shown an ability to babble on about the goal, filling inches of columns aplenty and disecting the goal from every possible angle. I'm just waiting for the interview with the piece of turf that flew off Rooney's boot as he took flight...

I am a United fan and I'm already a little bored of the echoes about how it is the greatest goal to have been scored at anytime or anywhere... okay, only a little, but let's move on.

Falling from Grace - Players that Didn't quite live up to their Hype.

This feature picks out players that haven't quite delivered on the initialpromise that surrounded them when there first appeared on the football scene.

The following were dubbed as the 'next big thing' in football onnumerous occasions, some delivered more promise than others, but (in mynon-expert opinion) all fell victim to the hype that surrounded them - ahype they couldn't quite match in actions

Cherno Samba
A trainee at Millwall in the early noughties, Cherno Samba was regarded as the brightest striking talent England had unearthed in decades.
Samba was famously touted out by the Guardian newspaper as "the player to spearhead the England's assault on the 2006 World Cup".

However, when the finals arrived in Germany in 2006 the name Cherno Samba was not even remotely close to making the list of 23 England players heading out for the finals.

Samba's most notable career achievements to date were in Spain with Cadiz FC - who he joined from Millwall - and Malaga, where he scored 18 times in just under forty appearances for both sides.

Samba returned to England after three years in Spain with Plymouth Argyle and Wreham, before leaving for Swedish club FC Haka, where he registered only a solitary goal between the three clubs in 20 appearances.

Once dubbed as a player to spearhead England to greatness, these days a twenty-six-year-old Cherno Samba is plying his trade in Greece with Second Division club Panetolikos.

Freddy Adu
United States of America
At aged 14, American Freddy Adu's debut for DC United in a competitive MLS match created a lot of noise across the pond and the footballing world took notice of the United States golden boy from thereon.

After some success on a personal and collective level in the States, Adu moved to Benfica in what looked to be an attractive move for the teenage prodigy. However, failed trials at Manchester United and unsuccessful loan spells at Monaco, Beleneneses and Aris have seen Adu parted from his parent club far more than the American has been embraced.

Once billed as a rising star in not only American, but World football, Adu has failed to establish himself in Europe and has had to endure routine exile from the club that own his registration.

Ricardo Quaresma
Listing clubs such as Inter Milan, Porto and Chelsea on your resume, perhaps Quaresma could be excused from making a list such as this.

However, former Barcelona trainee Quaresma was destined to become one of the most dangerous attacking midfielders in this business. With the pace and trickery of compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo, Quaresma never delivered on his obvious potential, but signs were certainly evident of an ability to be on par if not greater than the Real Madrid hitman.

Jose Mourinho insisted that during Quaresma's time at Inter Milan, he would would play a big part in the club's success. He didn't. Instead Quaresma was loaned Chelsea and once again he failed to produce the kind of menace that various youtube clips back up in abundance.

Quaresma has since found his level, in Turkey with Besiktas. Although a fair level in football ferms it's a level that few would have predicted Ricardo Quaresma - the trickster - would be playing at during what is supposedly the peak of his career.

Evandro Roncatto
Very few will have actually heard of Brazilian Evandro Roncatto and it is strange to think that a player that once marginally missed out to Cesc Fabregas for the Player of the Tournament honour in the FIFA Under-17 World Championships in 2003 has failed to become a recognised figure in football.

The Ermis Aradippou (Greece) striker started his career in 2003 in his native Brazil with Guarani before moving to Sport Recife in 2006.

In 2007 Roncatto moved to Europe with Portuguese side Beleneneses, but never really found goalscoring form, netting only four times in over fifty appearances.

He stayed in Portugal and in 2009, the former Brazil Under-17 prodigy signed for Pacos de Ferriera where he made just seven appearances without returning a single goal.

Now, a twenty four year old Roncatto plays his football with Ermis Aradippou in Greece whereas the payer who pipped him to the FIFA Silver Ball trophy back in 2003 plys his trade with Arsenal and is being routinely hinted by Spanish giants Barcelona.

Javier Saviola
Like Quaresma above, it may be a little harsh to list a player who has played for Spanish giants Barcelona, Real Madrid in the past and who currently plays for a Benfica side that regularly feature in the latter stages of the Europa League competition.

However, at River Plate in the late nineties Saviola was regarded by many football experts as one of the most cunning and talented finishers in the game.

Nicknamed 'The Rabbit', Saviola scored 45 goals in 86 appearances for River Plate before moving to Spanish giants Barcelona for £15 million in 2001, aged 19.

After initially impressing in Spain, Saviola's form declined and in between 2004-2006 the Argentinian was loaned out to Monaco and Sevilla to reclaim match sharpness.

In 2007, having fallen out of favour at Camp Nou, Saviola moved to Real Madrid. Once again, Saviola failed to replicate the scoring form he had shown in Argentina with River Plate and during his first season at Barcelona, so after two seasons in Madrid the Argentinian moved on once more.

Portuguese club Benfica signed Saviola from Real Madrid and gave the misfiring striker the chance to flourish in Portugal's top flight.

PC game football manager certain held the Argentinian in high esteem. At 17 years of age Saviola was a goal machine for any football simulator fanatic, but in contrast his real life scoring achievements are a world away from the expectation set in simulation.

No more than a year or two ago the Brazilian Kerlon was the most talked about prospect in South America and one of the most sought after teenagers in football.

In 2005 Kerlon was top scorer and named best player at the 2005 South America Under-17 Football Championship.

He moved briefly to Chievo before signing for Inter Milan. Soon after arriving at Inter the man known for the 'Seal Dribble' was subsequently loaned to Ajax where he failed to make an appearance due to injury.

Despite being riddled by injuries over the past 18 months, Kerlon - still only 23 - has failed to deliver on the hype that has surrounded him as a prospering youngster at Cruziero in Brazil.

Prior to the 1998 World Cup a Brazilian by the name Denilson looked to take the tournament by storm, having just signed for Spanish club Real Betis who invested a record £21 million in a player who was to become known as a one-trick pony for the remainder of his career.

In 1998, thanks to Denilson, the step-over technique became a popular showboating trick and prompted a pandemic of skilled and unskilled footballers to weave their feet rapidly over a football without touching it.

Denilson stayed with Betis for sometime before going on a tour of the football compass where the the Brazilian seldom found top gear.

When he first appeared in the yellow and green of Brazil, Denilson looked mesmeric but after a while his trademark showpiece became predictable and it turned out he didn't have many other genuine qualities.

.... I could continue, but I won't. Add in any glaring oversights by leaving a comment below.

What happened to Freddy Adu?

In 2006 at the age of 14, there were early suggestions that Ghanian born American Freddy Adu was destined to become one of the greatest footballers of all time.
The American teenager made his debut for (Washington) DC United on 3rd April 2004 when he became the youngest American sportsman to partake in a professional game since 1887.

During the early stages of Adu's career many criticised the players performances, where pundits and journalists alike suggested that his introduction to Major League Soccer (MLS) had come to soon and that he would benefit from stepping out of the spotlight and develop the skills and maturity needed to deal with the pressures of the MLS.

In December 2006, having blown hot and cold with DC United, Adu moved to Real Salt Lake where he added to his growing reputation as a growing talent in MLS.

After captaining his country - The United States - in the under-20 World Cup in 2007 Adu made an impression on Portuguese side Benfica and in late July 2008, Adu signed a professional contract with the Portuguese side. The fee to take Adu to Benfica is rumoured to be in the region of two million Euros.

With the American 'wonderkid' arriving at Benfica, many football experts questioned the players true ability. Although a dominant force in Portugal, Benfica were by no means an elite footballing force when Adu arrived and suggestions that the Americans technical prowess had been over hyped soon became evident as Adu struggled to adjust to football in Portugal.

Having made just eleven appearances for Benfica, Adu was loaned to French club Monaco with an option to buy at the end of his loan spell. Adu failed to shine once more and Monaco chose to allow the American to return to his parent club after making only a handful of appearances for the French side.

Having returned to Benfica, the Portuguese club could not move him on quick enough with Adu spending further spells with Beleneses and Aris in Portugal and Greece respectively.

During his early career Adu was monitored closely by Manchester United among many other high profile clubs and spent a two week trial with the Lancashire club in 2006, but the American was unable to secure a work permit to play in England and returned to DC United.

Now aged 21, Freddy Adu has already played for seven different clubs where he has failed to deliver on his promise in Portugal, Greece, France and Turkey.

I remember reading articles when Adu first emerged in the United States. The young prodigy was heralded as one of the most gifted footballers the United States had ever seen.

A teenage Freddy Adu was quick, strong, intelligent in possession and was gifted with a sweet left foot that could weave spells on opposing defenders.

In the US, Adu excelled and created a significant volume of noise in regard to his ability. His at the time, was being monitored by some of the most powerful clubs in Europe, where the very best in business wanted to make the first approach to the United State's most recognised player.

Adu was only 14 years old, he had barely experienced top flight football in MLS and yet he was the most talked about soccer player in the league and his reputation was quickly spreading throughout Europe and the rest of the World were also listening in.

All that promise and now the former prodigy finds himself loaned out from parent club Benfica to any club that are willing to take him. Monaco have taken him, he lasted nine matches. Belenenses of Portugal took him on and he lasted three matches. He moved to Greece with Aris in 2010 and he managed only nine matches.

Now in 2011 Adu's latest project is with little known Turkish side Rizespor. Perhaps Turkey can provide him with the necessary platform to finally deliver the goods to match his ailing reputation.

At the young age of 21 is would be ridiculous to write off the Americans career, but perhaps the hype that surrounded him seven years ago when he first stepped out in the football cauldron, the pressure and the heat he was about to be exposed to was too much for the boy to handle.