Ronaldo Luis Nazário de Lima has finally
responded to the acidic declarations made by CBF President Ricardo
Teixeira last week. The AC Milan star hit out at the loose-lipped exec
who, in turn, tried to smooth the rough edges off his declarations by
shifting the blame onto the Brazilian press.
The Fenômeno did make it clear that he is open to a return to national
service…but only under the right conditions. Will Dunga bring the
striker back into the seleção or is it nothing but a fat chance that
Ronaldo will get another opportunity to don the fabled Canarinha shirt…?
On one hand those who doubt that Ronaldo has been one of the
best players ever to don the Seleção shirt are few and far between, most
rightly acknowledging that the Fenômeno is worthy of a
privileged place in Brazilian footballing history. On the other hand
opinions are divided as to whether or not he deserves another crack at
the whip after the catastrophe in Germany 2006.
Ronaldo will celebrate
his thirty-first birthday next month, although he will do so as a man
exiled from the national team that he was once such an unquestioned part
of. Much of the blame has been levelled at the fact that he turned up
for the 2006 World Cup weighing close to 100kg and was linked to
late-night sorties to night clubs where he may have had one too many.
After Dunga took over and cracked the whip at those who he saw as not
taking their country’s call to arms seriously enough, Ronaldo was
conspicuous by his absence in every single call-up that the new Coach
has released. Ronaldo did have surgery on his left tibia after the
German let-down, but since then has returned to form and a more
recognisable shape at the Rossoneri…yet still is absent from
Although Dunga has publicly denied that Ronaldo is 'persona non grata'
in the Seleção, the unsaid message was interpreted as being that Brazil
has now moved on and that the Fenômeno forms part of the past
rather than the future. After the Copa América conquest the Coach
underlined that those who fought under him in Venezuela were top of the
list to continue being called up – and that obviously didn’t include
The almost surprising conquest against Argentina also allowed CBF (Confederação
de Futebol Brasileiro – Brazilian Football Confederation) President
Ricardo Teixeira to puff up his chest and loosen a jaw that has landed
him in hot water before. The suit lashed out at the World Cup showing
in an interview with Brazilian broadsheet O Estado de São Paulo
that only named Ronaldo specifically.
After the original dust that was kicked up settled, Ronaldo replied
obliquely to a hypothetical return to the Seleção strike force. "It
depends on whether or not the President [of the CBF, Ricardo Teixeira]
actually realises that he isn’t the owner of the seleção. It’s owned by
the people. If the fans want me back I’ll be ready and willing",
explained the forward, perhaps forgetting that Dunga has the final word.
Ronaldo also hit out against the specific reference to his weight
issues that Teixeira used as a blunt weapon to bash the player. "In
2002, when we were five-times champions, he [Ricardo Teixeira] was the
first to lift the Cup. Now he doesn’t think twice about criticising.
The weight issue was never a problem", stressed the striker, evidently
annoyed at the fact that a suit felt the freedom to criticise.
This actually has shades of friction during the 2006 World Cup with
another President; one Luiz Inácio da Silva, better known as Lula – the
President of Brazil. At the time the President – well known for an
ability to insert his foot into his own mouth on a number of issues –
reportedly asked Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira if he thought that
Ronaldo was fat, something that had dogged the then-Real Madrid man
during the previous season in Spain.
Parreira diplomatically answered that Ronaldo wasn’t so much fat as
big-boned and strong. Ronaldo was incensed and responded with barely
concealed anger, using the fact that Lula had been criticised for
drinking too much in the past. "Everybody says that the President
drinks pra caramba (like crazy). It’s as much of a lie that I’m
fat that he drinks pra caramba", the Fenômeno snapped
Lula dropped the hot potato and kept his mouth firmly under control
afterwards, Ronaldo going on to score three goals and become a
record-breaker as the All-Time World Cup Top Goalscorer with 15 Goals
netted in 19 games over 3 World Cups…not bad for a man slammed for being
more Jabba the Hut than Luke Skywalker in Germany, but most memories of
the player unfairly revolve around his corpulence and snappiness rather
than his achievement.
Teixeira has now softened his declarations…in part. The CBF boss has
used the organisations rather embarrassing free website to respond to
Ronaldo’s criticism of the interview that O Estado de São Paulo
published last week. Under the overblown title "President Ricardo
Teixeira manifests himself about Ronaldo’s declarations", a short
article interprets (not quoting) the CBF President’s view.
"With respect to the news articles published this Wednesday,
communicating the desire of the player Ronaldo to return to the Seleção,
CBF President Ricardo Teixeira has affirmed that he includes himself
amongst the Brazilians who are crossing their fingers so that the
striker can attain his objective…. Ricardo Teixeira added that Dunga is
responsible for the call-ups and he pays attention to all players who
are capable of representing the Seleção."
Although he chose not to put his own words on the CBF site, Teixeira
did speak to TV Globo who have a short video interview on their
site. Wearing an open-necked shirt and with a raised brow and a soft
smile, the exec put the lions share of the blame on the press for
criticism of Ronaldo’s weight and night life, although he refused to
withdraw his assertion that weight was an issue.
"Any player who plays eight to ten kilos above his ideal weight isn’t
acting consciously like a good athlete…that’s my opinion, anyway, and,
by the way, I think that other people share that opinion such as the
press who hit out at two things during the World Cup: parties during the
call-up period with players turning up late and a player who was fat…that’s
simply what you (the press) said"
"At no time did I mention drink", he continued, "…I just said that
there shouldn’t be excesses…and that, by the way, was something I heard
through you…the press…I saw photos and footage that you put in the
papers and on the television about players arriving at three in the
morning…and that’s what the CBF was against and I stand by what was said
then and I stand by it now as well."
Dunga hasn’t spoken of the scandal, although the Brazil Coach didn’t
include Ronaldo in the list of 22 players called up to play Algeria in
Marseille, keeping Rafael Sóbis, Robinho and Vágner Love as his
artillery. This has been – apart from the injured Fred and the dropped
Afonso Alves – the base of his strike force since being appointed and
the tactician has made it clear that he is staying true to the men who
served him in the past.
The tactician didn’t refer to anybody by name, but left the door open…with
a sting in the tail that was aimed at anybody who takes a call-up too
lightly. "We are trying to maintain a base although the Seleção is open
to the return of players in future. They have to be prepared and have a
good level of play at club level…and take advantage of every single
minute they are called up"
The next call-up could see a hypothetical return of Ronaldo to the
fold. Seleção supervisor Americo Faria informed the press that the
call-ups for the 12th September Boston friendly against Mexico (and the
9th September date that’s yet to be filled) will be made on the morning
of Thursday 23rd of August in Montpellier: one day after the Algeria
Pelé is still Brazils all-time top scorer with 77 goals (in 92
appearances), but Ronaldo isn’t far behind with 62 netted in 97
appearances. At AC Milan he’s scored 7 in 14 matches, the reappearance
of hair for the first time since his breakout days at PSV Eindhoven
dovetailing with a rebirth in Italy and an official weight of 90kg
according to the AC Milan site.
He may have been hurt by the comments about his weight, but Ronaldo
has slimmed down after his Spanish excesses. He’s also got some
unfinished business at Seleção-level (notching up a centenary of
appearances that even Pelé didn’t reach and hunting down O Rei
as top scorer with just 15 goals separating them) and he’s hardly washed
up at (almost) 31 seeing as Romário is still going at 41.
The kicker is that the Baixinho may even, according to the
grapevine, receive a last call-up to Brazil for the 17th October match
scheduled to be played at the number 11's habitual haunt of Maracanã –
although Dunga said that he knows nothing of it at the recent press
conference. Surely if theres a slim chance that Romário will be
short-listed there should be more than a fat chance that Ronaldo can