Any doubts about whether or not former three-time world
player of the year Ronaldo can still be a force in football were dispelled in
just over 45 minutes on Sunday.
That was the time it took for Ronaldo to score twice and set up a third as AC
Milan finally managed to secure their first home league win of the season.
After five draws, two defeats and a paltry three goals during the first half of
the season, Napoli were the unfortunate victims as Milan scorched to a 5-2
It wasn't just about Ronaldo, though, as the European champions' new Brazilian
attacking triumverate 'Ka-Pa-Ro' (Kaka, Pato and Ronaldo) combined for four of
the five goals.
Fans have been talking about Milan's 21st century equivalent to their famous
1950s Swedish 'Gre-No-Li' partnership (Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils
Liedholm), and they didn't disappoint.
But it was the form of Ronaldo that most delighted Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti.
He latched onto an Andrea Pirlo pass to score the first goal, twice teed up Pato
before Clarence Seedorf scored the second and then headed home a sumptuous cross
from Seedorf 30 seconds after the break to notch the match-winner.
"We were fantastic, particularly Ronaldo," gushed Ancelotti.
"He is a phenomenon and he proved it even though he wasn't in great shape.
"Ronaldo started training on January 2 after six months of injuries. I'm happy
for him, he's suffered a lot."
Ancelotti thrust Pato straight into the starting line-up for his debut and
restored Ronaldo despite the striker - once unkindly nicknamed 'El Gordo' ('Fatty')
during his time at Real Madrid - playing only 45 minutes of a friendly since his
only other appearance of the season in late November.
"We took a risky attacking approach but it was vital as we need to claw back
points," added the coach, alluding to Milan's 12th place in the league and
25-point deficit to leaders and bitter city rivals Inter Milan.
He was also delighted with Pato's contribution. The 18-year-old looked to be
struggling a little before the break, missing two one-on-one chances in quick
succession at one point.
But he grew as the game went on and took his chance with aplomb.
"Pato? He's got great ability. It was his first game, there's certain things to
improve on but he proved he is very, very good."
Pato was delighted with how his first game went but he still deferred to his
hero and strike partner.
"The team played really well," he said. "I want to dedicate my goal to my family
and my girlfriend.
"Ronaldo is the true phenomenon, not me. I'm really happy to have scored. How
many more can I get? I'll go to bed and have a think about that and talk about
it another time."
Ronaldo may have won the plaudits from his own team but visiting coach Edy Reja
was most impressed by Pato.
"I thought he would show his inexperience but instead he showed great maturity
and mental strength," said Reja.