World Cup Debate: Do Brazil Really Need Ronaldo? (Video)

R9’s return to goalscoring form has lead to fresh calls for him to be reinstated to the Selecao. But’s KS Leong asks, do Brazil need him to come back?

As Ronaldo announced that he is comtemplating the idea of an early retirement next year, the question running through everyone’s mind is whether will he be granted one last recall to the Selecao, or one final appearance in the World Cup, before he hangs up his boots?

An overwhelming majority of readers have backed O Fenomeno to fight his way back into the ultra-competitive Brazilian national team. But the country’s former World Cup winning captain, Carlos Alberto Torres, doesn’t believe that he should feature in Dunga’s long-term plans. And he has good reason for thinking that.

Brazil simply do not require Ronaldo’s services in this phase of their history. They have more than enough talented forwards at their disposal: Luis Fabiano, Adriano, Robinho and Alexandre Pato. That they are not scoring regularly and consistently has more to do with the coach and his tactics, than it does with the players' natural abilities.

Risky Business

It’s not that Ronaldo is no longer good enough to don the verde-amarela, or that he’s too old. Make no mistake, he is not past it by any means. He has already scored four goals in five games for Corinthians and did so almost immediately after returning from a year long injury. It’s the kind of conversion rate reminiscent of his astonishing ratio back in the 90’s: 42 goals in 45 games for PSV and 34 goals in 37 games for Barcelona. If he can continue in this form, he certainly warrants a return to the Canarinho.

But taking the 32-year-old to the 2010 World Cup, for example, is a risk. While he may be guaranteed to provide goals, there will always be a lingering question mark around his fragile condition, especially his knees. Sometimes at 50%, he can perform better than most strikers at 100%. But there are also times when his 50% looks more like most other players at 10%. In other words, his unpredictable fitness makes him… well, too unpredictable.

In all fairness, Ronaldo has always demonstrated his remarkable resilience and tenacity. Not only has he bounced back from several career-threatening injuries, but also from a twilight-zone World Cup final, some highly publicised broken relationships, yo-yo weight problems and countless off-field scandals.

The one thing he hasn’t been able to shed, though, is his over-indulgent lifestyle and his excessive partying.

It is something that the Brazilian team can do without at the moment, especially in light of more recent stories about Adriano and Robinho’s 12-hour merrymaking escapade and especially with South Africa 2010 fast approaching.

The no-nonsense disciplinarian Dunga, the Brazilian equivalent of Fabio Capello, was brought in to keep a tight leash on his players, clean up the squad and disband any group of egotistical celebrities and superstars. It was something that played a big part in the nation’s downfall in the 2006 World Cup in Germany when, for the first time since Italia ’90, they failed to get past the quarter-final stage as their ‘Magic Quartet’ flopped miserably.

Ronaldo has already earned and cemented his legendary status in the history books of world football, although according to the notorious IFFHS polls, he ranks no higher than 9th in the list of the best Brazilian players in the 20th century.

Yet, he has already been through and achieved more on the international stage than most players can even dream of. He’s gone all the way to the final of a World Cup three times in succession, won two of them, although he didn’t play at all at USA ’94 as a 17-year-old; he’s overtaken the great Gerd Muller as the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer with 15 goals; he won the tournament’s Golden Shoe in 2002 and the Golden Ball in 1998 and he’s one of only two players to have ever won the FIFA World Player of the Year three times. 

Let The Kids In

With 62 international goals to his name, perhaps the only thing left for Ronaldo to do is chase down Pele’s 77-goal mark to become the country’s all-time top scorer. While almost every football fanatic would love to see that happen, the truth is that it’s time for him to move over and let the next generation of young, aspiring Fenomenos to begin their own fairytale journey to superstardom. And there are plenty of them.

The one player who could suffer most if Ronaldo were to return to A Selecao is Pato, who has just started to inch his way into Dunga’s plans. The Milan striker has gone from being this gawky looking, pimple-faced teenager to becoming a world class footballing teenager in the space of just a few years. And in a few years more, he will join the very top echelon of the megastars of today. But his international progress could be hampered if in the next year or two, if he falls down the pecking order to make room for R9. 

There’s also Douglas Costa who, although not a forward, is an outrageously talented attacking midfielder in the Ronaldinho mould. He’s already proven himself in Brazil’s Sub-20 squad in the recent South American Youth Championships but to move up to the next step, he needs the exposure in the senior squad and at the moment there is just no way of squeezing him in there, much less so if another attacking spot is reserved for Ronaldo.

But one particular young sensation everyone wants to see in the Esquadrao de Ouro is Keirrison. Wonderfully nicknamed K9, he is the one Brazilian who is in red-hot form at present: 16 goals in 14 games for Palmeiras. And at 20 years of age, he is primed and ready to step onto the big stage, although he may be too skinny for Dunga’s liking. But a potential move to one of Europe’s superpowers in the near future will force him to beef up and fast-track his international debut.

And the latest kid to emerge is, of course, Neymar, anointed by none other than Pele himself as the next big thing to come out of Brazil. And Santos. He may only have just turned 17 years old a month-and-a-half ago, but, lest we forget, that’s how old both Pele and Ronaldo were when they had their very first World Cup experience.

No-one would begrudge the opportunity the see Ronaldo in full fitness and in full flight as he rips apart opposing defences like he did in the good old days. And just like any professional footballer, he still harbours the burning desire to pull on his country’s colours and sing the national anthem before the start of every game.

Dunga has said he is more than willing to take the striker back, should an opportunity present itself. But the truth is that Brazil and Dunga are not in any particular dire need of his services. And Ronaldo himself isn’t exactly dying for more international recognition or success, or more unnecessary exertion on his knees. You just feel that one more injury and the curtains will really have to come down.

It would be sad sight indeed to see him forced to end his playing career with tears soaking his famous yellow jersey, clutching his knee as he is carried off the field in a stretcher, watched by millions.

Then again... he's already managed one comeback:

KS Leong,