Ronaldinho was a face that became ubiquitous with world football throughout the past decade. Though, due to problems concerning responsibility and disillusionment with the commercial side of the beautiful game, it all came crashing down. Here was a player, notice I speak retrospectively, who fell from the summit due to reasons only he can be made responsible for – his unfocussed attitude, mentality and lifestyle all ultimately contributing.
Tuesday 8th March, 2008; I was lucky enough to attend the unforgettable 4-2 Barcelona defeat at Stamford Bridge. It was, to a degree where this love affair started; Ronaldinho arrived that night as the best player in the world and certainly lived up to the narrative, proving to be the standout individual – it was an act that would persist for the rest of the season.
Tuesday July 15th 2008; he sealed his €21m move from Barcelona to AC Milan. He had become, just four months later, somewhat of an enigma. Here was a player who had won everything possible at both club and international level, whilst furthermore acquiring the most desired individual awards in world football – and yet here he was, abandoned by the Catalan faithful.
Ronaldinho, though, always had flaws. Palpable flaws which would see an end to the impulsive player who represented the end of an insufferable period for Barcelona. Incredibly, even today, despite his accolades, you could justifiably call him an underachiever. Luis Fernández told of the Brazilian’s impressionable affair with Parisian night life at PSG, whilst varying levels of effort could clearly been seen in games of differing importance both for PSG [Marseille] and Barcelona [Real Madrid]. Motivation levels and his affection for celebrity culture were drawn into question. They were all problems which would frustrate fans and managers, alike.
Ronaldinho had inspired Barcelona to back-to-back La Liga titles and a Champions League – he was arguably the most talented footballer of his generation, my generation, and yet will somewhat be remembered for his failures, sluggish descend from the summit of world football and what could have been – rather than his showmanship or the football itself.
Antipathy for Ronaldinho derives from the fact that we were presented with a player who demonstrated such magnificent talent at the highest stage, yet a lack of dedication, tenacity and a penchant for extra-curricular activities prevented us from enjoying anymore of what he so obviously still had to offer. For himself and the football audience it remains desperately disappointing.
I wouldn’t say I felt any type of entitlement from Ronaldinho; he encapsulated everything I love about football, offered brilliance to spectators and an opportunistic personality to Barcelona during a time of desperate need. Though, because he showed his hand we can see what he took back, perhaps there will always be a sense of resentment there for we know what he withheld. Here was a player that had won everything toward the end of his Barcelona tenure and perhaps lacked that discipline to maintain such superior eminence. Players have come and gone who don’t live up to their potential, but Ronaldinho was a player who showed the world what he could offer, then snatched it back.
He revolutionised football, some even argue that the technical era in football started because of Ronaldinho. Xavi, Iniesta etc may not enjoy the same irrefutable employment of trickery, but they no doubt, along with other modern player’s, possess the same appreciation and place the equal amount of emphasis on technical mastery as opposed to the bullish charm to which it followed. In terms of raw talent I’m yet to see a more gifted individual.
Ronaldinho, for me, represents an intoxicating audacity and childish devotion toward football. He’s a player who would encapsulate an unreserved sense of opportunity with him every time he took to the pitch, whilst holding a loyalty toward showmanship and entertainment. He epitomizes that of a troubled genius, an individual who displayed everything of a pioneer, yet succumbed to that of the benefits of success.
For me, Ronaldinho sums up everything that individuals have become within the football profession, gifted with an unerring ability and glorious skill to produce at the very highest stage, yet haunted by a recklessness that has certainly not claimed its last victim. Ronaldinho is a symbol, a player who despite his triumphs will be burdened with an underlying sense of animosity, though one whom I shall forever be thankful for – disappointment and pleasure; anger and appreciation in equal measure.