Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Cristiano Ronaldo Rumors

The rumor du jour (or rumour du jour if you're into mixing the Queen's English and French or you're an Oklahoma fan) is that Cristiano Ronaldo is headed from Old Trafford to the Nou Camp over the summer. Big Phil Scolari has supported the move, as has Portuguese teammate Hugo Viana. I have a few thoughts on this one:

1. I'm against the move from Barca's perspective. Cristiano Ronaldo (hereinafter, "CR") has had an excellent season with Manchester United, but I still think that he's somewhat overrated. He's got good moves, he's hard to knock off of the ball, and he can score when he gets into the box, but he's still fundamentally a selfish player. He's Arjen Robben with a little more scoring ability. That works at Manchester United, which sometimes needs CR to generate offense by himself, but that style will not work at Barcelona, where the team's short passing game would be damaged by a player that holds onto the ball for too long and is generally looking to do his own thing. What makes the Barca system work and cause Ray Hudson to wax poetic like James Lipton on Charles Nelson Reilly is that the players all set one another up. Deco, Xavi, and Iniesta get the ball forward and then Ronaldinho, Messi, and Eto'o circulate the ball in the attacking third, using one another to create chances. What'll happen too often if CR is at Barca is that he'll get the ball on the right wing, put his head down, and then take on two defenders until he gets into the box. This will likely drive the rest of the team crazy and exacerbate whatever tensions there are between a collection of highly-compensated, highly-successful, highly-egotistical players. Maybe there's an unselfish player beneath the surface, but I wouldn't bet 40M Euros on that point, especially when Leo Messi can fill the right wing position better than CR can. Barca passed on CR this summer because they were going after Henry, who would be a much better fit with Barca's style of play; I hope that they stick with their original judgment.

2. CR would be a better fit at Real Madrid. For one thing, they're desperate for a major star right now, as Robinho hasn't panned out like they had hoped and they are desperate for someone who can generate offense. For another thing, they have no concept of team anyway, so CR will be in a perfect environment. And speaking of which, I can't express how hilarious it is that people at Real are identifying Eto'oGat'e as an opportunity to catch the Catalans. If there's anyone who should know about discontent, it's the folks at the Bernabeu. Off the top of my head, the club president (who may not be the club president for long, as there is litigation contesting his election and he might lose out to a guy currently under indictment) ripped into the players in front of a group of law students and one reporter, the coach can't get along with Guti, the coach can't get along with Robinho, the coach can't get along with Cassano, their star centerback Cannavaro has played the worst football of his life this season, Roberto Carlos has complained because Capello has forced him to play defense, and Beckham has been dropped because he signed with MLS, leading to a he-said, she-said debate as to why he didn't re-sign with Real. There is such a massive case of projection going on with those comments that I don't know if words can describe it. Five points just doesn't do justice to the gulf between Barca and Real this year. The Blaugrana might not win La Liga, but if they lose it, it'll be Valencia or possibly Sevilla beating them.

[Update: Iker Casillas, the Madridista I respect, agrees: "If Barcelona are in crisis, then we have really fallen off the edge. Their crisis makes me laugh."

3. I've also been amused by the reaction in England to the move. You would think that a nation that saw its two biggest stars - David Beckham and Michael Owen - move to Real Madrid would not be surprised if CR wanted to make a move to Spain, especially since he's Portuguese. You would think that he wouldn't be begrudged wanting to get passes from Iniesta, Deco, Messi, and Ronaldinho as opposed to John O'Shea and Darren Fletcher. You would think that fans would understand that CR might enjoy Spain more than England, seeing as how the English blame him for getting mild-mannered Wayne Rooney sent off, as opposed to this:

But no, Ronaldo would be a mercenary for making the move. Because all those players in the Premiership are playing for peanuts, a hearty well done from her Majesty the Queen, and a pittance of a pension.


LD said...

I think the dichotomy you present for English fans isn't the exclusive range of feelings on CR. Namely, I don't think most English fans dislike Ronaldo solely because of his whining to the ref of Rooney's admitted indiscretion led to Rooney's dismissal. I think they dislike him because that one action fit within a greater narrative about the player - that he's undoubtedly talented but plays the game in a way that most fans don't enjoy watching. They don't like him because yes, he whines to the officials, but moreso because he's a rather flagrant diver. In last year's world cup, and specifically in the England match, his dramatic flopping drew the largest ire in many English eyes. And on multiple occasions in the Premiership this year that reputation has been furthered.

Whether diving in the abstract is acceptable gamesmanship is a debate for another day - but I think there's a belief in England, perhaps moreso than in other footballing nations, that it is much less acceptable.

I think the vast majority of English fans would say "good riddance" to CR (aside from ManU fans). On the one hand I don't think the Arsenal Fan Review column is a broad view towards CR, but I also don't think it's an exclusive view. I think most English fans might not like Ronaldo because of his style AND because he might want more money. The base populist football fan in England, from my experience, doesn't like players that move for more money (whether the move is domestic or international), but also likes his players to be tough, hardnosed and never give an ounce. Whether right or wrong, CR has a reputation as a diver and a player who makes an effort at the theatre of football - and that's something Union Jack Lagerswiller doesn't like either. And you can also see some form of defensiveness from fans of any particular nation when there might be a suggestion that a top player is leaving for what he considers to be a better league (I think Spain is definitely no worse than England, but there may be some debate on the island as to what is better).

Basically, I can see CR's reasons for wanting to make a move, and I can understand why English fans wouldn't like those reasons (even if they don't like CR as a player, particularly). As to whether the whims of a vast fanbase have any logical congruity or relationship to objective reality - that's an entirely different matter.

Tim said...

I can't comment on how Ronaldo will fit one way or another into either Barca or Real Madrid (though Madrid clearly needs something), but I do have some thoughts on the English reaction. There are a couple of reasons I think that fan reaction (and that of the pundits) has been negative to these rumors. First, this is the first year that Ronaldo is living up to the hype and showing the skills and impact regularly that he was supposed to bring to the ManU squad (replicating his national performances). The ManU fans would rightly think that he's using this as a stepping stone to the big money in Spain. Whether or not this is enough to justify the negativity, I don't know, but there has to be some kernal of truth in it.

Second, for the four hundred and eightieth season and a row, Spanish clubs (or their president's to be more precise) are promising their fans the moon and stars to secure election, unsettling a player who is under contract with another club. Ronaldo is just the latest For years, it was Madrid sniffing around Patrick Viera, to be closely following by their courtship of Reyes (good riddance on that one), then there was the Henry saga of last year that never left the news, even though Henry himself said there were to be no decisions until after the season. Personally, I can't wait until Barca come looking for Fabregas. At least I know he'll never play for Real Madrid. I figure that talk is due to start about February 14, 2008, even though he's just signed an eight year deal with Arsenal. As you can probably tell from this missive, fans of English clubs are a little fed up with such shenanigans. How is it different than the whole Ashley Cole Saga.

And I apologize if this comes off as a rant.

Tim said...

Ugh, I can't even do hyperbole right. That first sentence should be "in a row".

footbal tickets said...

ronaldo was little bit selfish player like robben.But he matured as he grew.He has been groomed by the most experienced coach ever SAF.

I don't accept with you that he would not fit for barca.He can single handedly win matches for any team.

He is a one man army.

dumb question said...

What are the "Labels" at the bottom of every post? Is that to help search for the post on Google or something?