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09/08/2007
Chewing The Fat Over Ronaldo

 
 
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 servicebut 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 countrys 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 Rossoneriyet still is absent from Dungas lists.

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 didnt include Ronaldo.

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 isnt the owner of the seleção. Its owned by the people. If the fans want me back Ill 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 doesnt 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 wasnt 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). Its as much of a lie that Im fat that he drinks pra caramba", the Fenômeno snapped back.

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 Cupsnot 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 declarationsin part.  The CBF boss has used the organisations rather embarrassing free website to respond to Ronaldos criticism of the interview that O Estado de São Paulo published last week.  Under the overblown title "President Ricardo Teixeira manifests himself about Ronaldos declarations", a short article interprets (not quoting) the CBF Presidents 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 Ronaldos 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 isnt acting consciously like a good athletethats 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 fatthats simply what you (the press) said"

"At no time did I mention drink", he continued, "I just said that there shouldnt be excessesand that, by the way, was something I heard through youthe pressI saw photos and footage that you put in the papers and on the television about players arriving at three in the morningand thats what the CBF was against and I stand by what was said then and I stand by it now as well."

Dunga hasnt spoken of the scandal, although the Brazil Coach didnt 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 didnt refer to anybody by name, but left the door openwith 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 leveland 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 thats yet to be filled) will be made on the morning of Thursday 23rd of August in Montpellier: one day after the Algeria match.

Pelé is still Brazils all-time top scorer with 77 goals (in 92 appearances), but Ronaldo isnt far behind with 62 netted in 97 appearances.  At AC Milan hes 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.  Hes also got some unfinished business at Seleção-level (notching up a centenary of appearances that even Pelé didnt reach and hunting down O Rei as top scorer with just 15 goals separating them) and hes 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 come back?


 
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10.08.2007 14:20 +0400
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