Nightmare in Brazil Starring Ronaldinho
If Ronaldinho’s career could be put into a feature length film it would be a enigmatic thriller about a boy from Brazil who reached the highest heights only to throw it all away at the last. A man from working class roots that became a millionaire infatuated with a celebrity lifestyle, but thinking of football second. There is no doubt that the film should have Ronaldinho playing himself, because no actor could ever replicate what the Brazilian has on the pitch, and certainly not off it. But there is no doubt that the ending would be a sad one, a ‘what might have been’.
Fluminense announced the signing of Ronaldinho a mere 9 weeks ago to a massive fanfare and over 15,000 fans turned out to watch a clearly overweight fallen star take a few laps around the pitch. Fast forward on a few weeks and the Brazilian club agreed to release Ronaldinho, his oversized belly and oversized contract. It is cited in many books that Pep Guardiola gave ‘Dinho an ultimatum at Barcelona: shape up, or ship out. Ultimately, AC Milan were the procurers of some damaged Brazilian goods, before a series of ill informed, money-driven moves saw him pitch up in the Green, Red and White of Flu.
To give some context, Fluminense are one of the largest teams in Rio and in the whole of Brazil with support that intrinsically linked to the upper echelons of society. Some of their most famous supporters include a FIFA president. But, wealthy fan base aside, Flu relied heavily on a third party investment from a large medical firm. This accounted for around 70% of all income, but since the firm have pulled all monetary support and thus Fluminense are struggling. Their wage bill to current and former players and coaches exceeds 8 million rais (Brazilian currency) per month, with 5 million of that going to current players. Ronaldinho was signed in the hope that his presence would provide significant monetary supplementation.
In the release statement on the official website, the prose is as follows ” It should be noted that the deal met marketing expectations, increasing ticket sales, the number of shirts sold and commercial partners. The Ronaldinho deal also showed that Fluminense can arouse the interest of the greatest players in world football.” The first merely backs up the theoery that Flu were desperate to recoup money. But, the last point in particular is worth discussion. Before the arrival of Ronaldinho in Rio, Flu were flying high in the top four and on the day of his departure now sit 12th with a negative goal difference and in free-fall. It would appear that the days of Ronaldinho being one of the ‘greatest players in football’ are long gone. He is no longer capable of controlling a game, rather flirting with the sidelines with a couple of extravagant passes thrown in for good measure. Flu have a young squad who under the captaincy of World Cup squad member Fred (pronounced: Fre-dje) had proved themselves quite capable of producing eye-catching football. But the appearance of Ronaldinho seems to have scuppered all his great work.
Unfortunately, Fluminese and Ronaldinho’s relationship would end much like the aforementioned film. An inconspicuous end to a wonderful, glittering career with more questions raised than answers given. Will he ever play again? Will Fluminense ever recover from this brief flirtation with a maligned genius?