Calcio Debate: Ronaldinho – Top Or Flop?

Ronaldinho’s finally completed his move from Barcelona to Milan last night, but are the Rossoneri signing a gem, or are they making a huge mistake?
Milan transfer guru Adriano Galliani has been criticised heavily over the past few years for failing to adequately reinforce the club’s first team squad. This summer Galliani had been doing much better. Mathieu Flamini is still the signing of the summer so far, while two Italy internationals in Gianluca Zambrotta and Marco Borriello have also arrived.

The signing of Ronaldinho though has certainly divided opinion, with a number of serious question marks hanging over the Brazilian:

1) Is Ronaldinho still the same player he was?

In 2004 and 2005 Ronaldinho was undisputedly the best player in the world, and indeed for a while he was on another planet to those around him, winning successive FIFA World Player of the Year Awards, as well as the Ballon d’Or. Who can forget that unstoppable individual performance against Real Madrid, when he earned a standing ovation from the Bernabeu crowd? Or what about that magical, outside of the foot goal against Chelsea in the Champions League?

However, since the 2006 World Cup he has clearly been in decline, and indeed last season was the worst of his entire career, as he struggled with weight, form and fitness, barely playing for large chunks of the season. Recently nicknamed ‘Gordinho’, Ronnie is clearly overweight and out of shape. He is only 28, and in theory should be at his peak, but will he ever rediscover his best form, or has he already burnt out? This is the huge gamble that Milan are taking.

2) Did Milan really need Ronaldinho?

Ever since Andriy Shevchenko left in 2006, Milan have seemingly been crying out for a top class first striker. The fact that the club have been chasing Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Adebayor this summer seems to suggest that they don’t have much trust in Marco Borriello. Many people believe it would have been far more beneficial for the club to spend big on a lethal frontman, who not only will score goals, but will complete the offensive jigsaw. Milan are already blessed with a host of brilliant trequartistas - did they really need another one?

3) Where will Ronaldinho fit in?

This brings me on nicely to my next point about just how Milan will accommodate Ronaldinho into the starting XI? Kaka, Seedorf, Pato, Pirlo, Gattuso, Flamini, Ambrosini will not all be able to share the same team with the Brazilian. Squad rotation is a possibility, but these are big egos we are talking about, and players are not going to be happy to sit around on the bench for an extended period. The forever outspoken Seedorf has publicly opposed Ronaldinho’s transfer, and has warned him that he will neither give up his No.10 shirt, nor be forced to play in a deeper role. Something certainly has to give because there is no chance Kaka will be left out of the team. The Seedorf-Ronaldinho fuse has already been lit.

4) Can Ronaldinho & Kaka Play Together?

I wrote a debate on this topic a few months ago so I won’t over-elaborate, but the truth is that the two Selecao stars have never looked comfortable playing together. The prime example was the 2006 World Cup when both continuously got in each other’s way, failed to combine, and as a result there was just no attacking fluency to Brazil’s play. In many people’s eyes it was the inability of the pair to play together that was the key reason for the country’s disappointing tournament. Sometimes players can be just too similar to co-exist, just think of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard for England, or for an older example, Gianni Rivera and Sandro Mazzola for Italy.

5) Was Ronaldinho just bought for commercial reasons?

It is no secret that Milan, as with most Italian teams, have not been at their strongest financially in recent years. Many cynics will say that Ronaldinho, being such a huge commercial asset, will help the club move out of the red and into the black. When Real Madrid signed David Beckham from Manchester United in 2003, they signed him not for his footballing ability, but for the money they could make from him. Forbes magazine revealed how he contributed to the club’s huge increase in merchandise sales, a total of more than $600 million during Beckham's four years at the club. However, Madrid’s success on the pitch during this time was not so grand, and indeed they won just one, extremely fortuitous La Liga title in 2007, which was virtually handed to them on a plate by Barcelona. Milan take note!

What are your views on this topic? Ronaldinho – Top or Flop? Is Ronaldinho still the same player he was? Did Milan really need him? Where will he fit in? Can Ronaldinho & Kaka Play Together? Was the Brazilian just bought for commercial reasons? wants to know what YOU think.

Carlo Garganese