or lack thereof, at Real Madrid this season has raised concerns about
his World Cup readiness. The leading scorer (eight goals) for champion
Brazil in 2002, Ronaldo hasn't been his ebullient, menacing self since
his three-month marriage to Brazilian model Daniella Cicarelli ended
abruptly last May.
The three-time FIFA Player of the Year has stopped scoring goals in
Spain, and his commitment has come under question from team officials
and fans. He was booed off his home pitch a few weeks back and promptly
announced the day before a UEFA Champions League match that he wanted to
leave Real. Teammates didn't like the timing of the decree, leaving
Ronaldo estranged in Madrid.
The chorus of criticism was joined by Pele, who said Ronaldo was letting
off-field issues affect his play. Ronaldo uncharacteristically lashed
out at Pele, suggesting his Brazilian elder was "bitter" and prone to "saying
stupid things." Pele is anything but bitter. He's certainly not stupid.
And in this case, he's right.
Ronaldo asked to skip the Confederations Cup last summer because he said
he needed a rest. Actually, he needed time to get over the collapse of a
marriage, his second, which ended after Cicarelli reportedly had a
miscarriage. It seems Ronaldo is still carrying the wound nearly a year
Ronaldo's personal heartbreak was partly why Brazil coach Carlos Alberto
Parreira didn't call him for two World Cup qualifiers last June.
Parreira won't, however, let Ronaldo's current form keep him off the
World Cup team. In fact, Parreira is counting on Ronaldo to lead Brazil
to its sixth title.
"When people start questioning him, it serves as an incentive for
Ronaldo," Parreira said last week in Sao Paulo. "It will be a surprise
and a disappointment for me if Ronaldo doesn't have a great World Cup."