A recently conducted poll by iG Esportes showed that 63% of Brazilian fans now want Ronaldinho Gaúcho out of the Brazilian national team set-up – a mere six months after his recall to A Seleção. Aleks Klosok looks at the reversal of fortunes of one of Brazilian football’s most iconic playmakers.
Brazil’s international successes and failures have been intrinsically linked to the icons that have led them. Ademir galvanised the nation in 1950, Pelé was central to three FIFA World Cup wins and Ronaldo defeated the demons of 1998 to win the country’s fifth FIFA World Cup four years later. Ronaldinho’s dream is to taste success in 2014 but it’s a dream that’s currently in jeopardy.
Just over a year ago the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year made his much-anticipated return to Brazilian football with Flamengo CF. The attacking midfielder’s goal was to force his way into A Seleção following his omission from Dunga’s 2010 FIFA World Cup Squad. Playing in his favoured left wing position, the man whose dazzling runs once made him one of the most notorious stars in world football, enjoyed a renaissance. As captain he guided Rubro-Negro to Campeonato Carioca victory – going unbeaten throughout – and scoring four goals in the process. His resurgence, Brazil faltering at the Quarter-finals stage of the Copa América and a wave of emotional public support saw the 31-year-old return to the national picture under Head Coach Mano Menezes last September.
Whilst a number of journalists questioned the return of the 2002 FIFA World Cup winner to the National Team set-up, citing it as a cynical ploy by the 49-year-old former Corinthians manager to pacify the growing wave of public discontent surrounding the team’s subpar performances in recent international friendlies, it was a return that initially paid dividends. The Porto Alegre-born man was viewed as an important figure in Brazil’s Superclásico de las Américas victory over Argentina in which he captained a youthful Brazilian side, and was industrious in the team’s international friendly encounter against Mexico in mid-October, sealing an impressive display with a wonderful free kick. Despite glimpses of his past excellence he, just like A Seleção, has remained unconvincing throughout the last 6 months.
The ex-FC Barcelona and AC Milan player is, in many ways, a microcosm of the current National Team set-up, one epitomised by a lack of urgency and flair – a far cry from the desired jogo bonito style of play that Mano Menezes had waxed lyrical about when he was appointment as Dunga’s successor in 2010. Since making his return against Ghana in September, Ronaldinho has struggled to adapt to the more intense rhythm of international football, among others. Surrounded by the youthful exuberance of Neymar, Leandro Damião and Hernanes, he has often been a passenger, failing to have any impact in the No.10 shirt, demonstrated once again in Brazil’s most recent 2014 FIFA World Cup warm-up game – a turgid 2-1 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The 2005 Ballon d’Or winner’s recent off the field problems combined with a dip in his club form have made him an easy scapegoat for what is a wider question facing Mano Menezes: If not Ronaldinho, then who realistically is ready to make the No.10 shirt their own for the foreseeable future? Despite having previously asserted himself in that role, namely at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and finding his form following a series of niggling injuries, Real Madrid’s Kaká has been constantly overlooked by Brazil’s Head Coach. São Paulo’s exciting teenage sensation Lucas Moura won praise for his performances in the Superclásico de las Américas but the 19-year-old needs time to mature. Perhaps the answer lies in the form of Santos’ Paulo Henrique Ganso.
The elegant left footed heir apparent to Ronaldinho is a talent with the ability to dictate play to his own tempo and pick out a pass with stunning precision. Yet his Copa América campaign came to expose faults within his game, namely his decision-making and, at times, inability to create in midfield. Like Kaká, the 22-year-old suffered with injuries that disrupted his 2011 with Santos, thus rendering 2012 an even more important year for him in his quest to take one of world football’s most coveted positions by the scruff of the neck. So far, the attacking midfielder has been used relatively sparingly by Mano Menezes but the extent of his future role within the National Team set-up is dependent on Ronaldinho’s own form.
Come the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals, the man who began his career with Grêmio, will be 34 years old. Whether he’ll still be able to cut it on the big stage is debatable. Mano Menezes’ decision as to whether to include him in his squad will be made harder due to the lack of competitive international football that Brazil is involved in between now and the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. By then the ground may have shifted towards a younger more vibrant Brazilian side. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that similar questions were raised about Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Finals. On that occasion, both National Team Coaches, Carlos Alberto Parreira and Raymond Domenech, were left vindicated by their decisions.
In the meantime Ronaldinho will turn his attention to being a part of Brazil’s football team at this year’s Olympic Games in London. His ultimate wish though is to celebrate one last hurrah in his homeland two years down the line and, like previous Brazilian icons, bow out in style. Whether he’ll be granted his wish remains to be seen.
You cam read more from Aleks at Calciato.com