For a player who has
become used to having things entirely his own way, Ronaldo has been
given a very rude awakening by the decision to leave him out of the
World Cup qualifier against Argentina.
The message from the Brazil hierarchy appears to be that he is no longer
Ronaldo asked to be excused from the Confederations Cup in the second
half of June because, he felt, he needed a rest. But the Real Madrid
striker got more than he bargained for.
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), which insisted it wanted a
full-strength team at the competition, also left him out of the World
Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Argentina at the start of June.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the decision comes after three of
Ronaldo's worst performances in a Brazil shirt.
Against Ecuador last November and then in the World Cup qualifiers
against Peru and Uruguay in March, Ronaldo looked off the pace as he
lumbered through the matches.
Yet on all three occasions, he was kept on for 90 minutes and got the
full backing of coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.
In fact, Ronaldo has not been substituted in the 2-1/2 years since
Parreira took over for his latest stint in the hottest seat in soccer,
except for the 'Peace Match' in Haiti last year.
In the last month, however, Parreira has taken off the kid gloves.
First, he issued a general warning that the Confederations Cup would be
used as a warm-up for next year's World Cup in Germany and anyone who
missed it would jeopardise his chances of a place in the team that will
challenge for a sixth world title.
Last week, Parreira, remembering he had spared Ronaldo from last year's
Copa America in Peru, issued another warning, this time aimed
specifically at Ronaldo.
"It would be great just to play the World Cup," said Parreira after
hearing of Ronaldo's desire for time off.
"Personally, it would be great for me if I could just coach the team at
the World Cup and not have to worry about the qualifiers and the
friendlies, where there is a lot of wear and tear."
"Every player should feel happy when he is picked. But if a player
really doesn't want to play for his country, then he has every right to
ask to be released.
"Nobody is irreplaceable and they're quite welcome to stay at home if
they don't want to play."
The words "nobody is irreplaceable" should sound the warning bells as
they come at the end of a season Ronaldo would rather forget.
He suffered a prolonged goal drought at Real Madrid, who again failed to
land a major trophy, and there were reports he had fallen out with coach
This came after cameras in the players' tunnel caught him throwing his
shirt to the floor in disgust after a substitution.
Ronaldo was also dogged by speculation he was overweight and this month
his much-publicised engagement to model Daniela Cicarelli came to an
abrupt end less than three months after the couple threw a lavish party
at a French chateau.
Ronaldo's "release", the official term used by Parreira, comes at a time
when competition for a place in the Brazil attack is hotter than ever
with players such as Adriano and Ricardo Oliveira lurking in the wings.
When Ronaldo missed the Copa America last year, Adriano stepped in and
finished as top scorer with seven goals. Real Betis striker Ricardo
Oliveira, meanwhile, outscored him by one goal in this year's Spanish
It gives Ronaldo plenty of food for thought during the holidays that he
wanted so badly.