Archive for February, 2011

Too often commentators wheel out the term “legend” when someone retires.

For Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima however, it is the only word fit to describe a man who won almost everything the game has to offer. But as a neutral one cannot help but feel that his talent was not totally fulfilled.

Anyone who has on their CV both Milan clubs as well as Real Madrid and Barcelona is a little bit special.

At domestic level he won two league titles with Real Madrid, the Cup Winners Cup with Barcelona in 1997 and the UEFA Cup with Inter Milan a year later, as well as countless of other honours and personal accolades.

Even when well past his peak he helped himself to a league and cup double with Corinthians in 2009.

He simply loved scoring goals. And 326 of them in 466 appearances showed that he was not bad at doing so.

It is probably though at international level he will be best remembered.

Brazil often appeared invincible with him in the team. In the 1990s the team was easy to analyse but often impossible to stop. Dunga marshalled the midfield; Rivaldo provided the flair; Ronaldo put the ball in the net. Easy.

He is the leading scorer in World Cup history having amassed fifteen goals in the three finals he played in, to leave himself one ahead of Germany’s Miroslav Klose.

Despite the incredible success Ronaldo had, we can greedily ask ourselves what might have been, had his career not been littered with injuries.

A knee injury whilst playing for Inter Milan in 1999, coupled with several botched recovery efforts, saw him lose nearly three years playing time before successfully returning to win the 2002 World Cup.

And the longer his career went on the more his fitness became an issue as he went onto become a shadow of his former self.

“I wanted to continue, but I can’t. I think of an action, but I can’t do it the way I want to. It’s time,” said Ronaldo on his retirement.

“Ronaldo has retired from football…1 of best to ever play the game – injuries prevented him being best ever. gonna have a minutes silence…” Rio Ferdinand tweeted on hearing the news.

Unfortunately it is impossible to talk about Ronaldo’s career without mentioning the one night which sadly he will always be remembered for: 12 July 1998.

Ronaldo’s goals had propelled Brazil into the World Cup Final against hosts France. The match was billed as Ronaldo vs. France.

What happened next is often talked about but has never been fully explained.

What we know is the first Brazil team-sheet was submitted by coach Mario Zagalo 70 minutes before kick-off and Ronaldo was amongst the substitutes. But half an hour later another sheet was admitted and he was back in the starting XI.

The Brazilian team never warmed-up before kick-off and were resoundingly thumped 3-0 by a Zidane-inspired France. Ronaldo’s performance was particularly anaemic and he wasted his only real chance by thumping it straight at Barthez.

Rumours immediately spread of rows in the dressing room, poisoning and love affairs as the general public tried to fathom how things went so spectacularly wrong.

The official reason later given was that Ronaldo had suffered seizures the night before, but was cleared to play by the team doctor. Right or wrong, it does not explain the pre-match chaos which ensued.

“We lost the World Cup but I won another cup – my life,” said Ronaldo later when asked about the whole affair but it is hard not to allow the dramatic events to overshadow his great career.

As sad as it seems more people will remember Ronaldo for his various breakdowns rather than what he actually was. A legendary scorer of goals.

West Brom Hodge their Bets

Posted: February 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

Hodgson back in football after Liverpool debacle

The term “journeyman” is usually reserved for footballers in their mid-30s. Those who have played for more clubs than their old minds can remember and who either failed to reach their potential or were incapable of convincing managers that they were good enough to keep.

If you look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary it simply says: “Nick Barmby and Steve Claridge”.

But rarely, if ever, is a manager labelled in such terms. But surely if anyone befits the label it is Roy Hodgson.

The 63-year-old is a man who, prior to his six-month stint at Liverpool, had a largely positive reputation.

His appointment at West Bromwich Albion yesterday was the twentieth of a managerial career that has spanned thirty-five years.

But if a club went through as many managers as Hodgson has gone through clubs, serious questions would be asked about the running of it.

Outside of Scandinavia his record of success is modest at best: a UEFA Cup runners-up medal with Inter Milan in 1997 and another in the then-rebranded Europa League with unfashionable Fulham in 2010.

However West Brom are realistic enough to know they are not looking for someone with a cabinet full of honours.

They need someone to galvanise them to beat the drop and someone who thrives in such a situation. Undoubtedly Hodgson is a manager who works best with an underdog mentality.

Fulham aside, Hodgson guided Switzerland to World Cup 1994 – their first appearance since 1966 and led Finland to their highest ever FIFA World Ranking position during a stint between 2006 and 2007.

Perhaps more important was his “Great Escape” effort with Fulham in 2008 – epitomised by their amazing 3-2 comeback win at Manchester City.

It is surely this ability to create success for the “unfashionable” team that lay behind West Brom’s belief he is the right man to ensure relegation is avoided.

His tenure at Liverpool was abject to put it mildly. Having been at Anfield for their match against Wolves in late-December, it was clear that Hodgson was out of his depth.

The supposedly famous Kop could easily have been mistaken for a library as the chant “You’ll Never Work Again” reverberated around the old ground from the away end. Though criticising the fans after the match was not perhaps Hodgson’s best move.

On the pitch the spectacle was arguably worse. The player’s movement was as restricted as an old pensioner’s tea-dance and to put it bluntly Lucas stood head and shoulders above the rest.

The night confirmed that neither the players nor the fans believed Hodgson was the right man.

However West Brom, no disrespect to the clubs involved, are more a Fulham than a Liverpool.

Hodgson can now get down to what he is best at – making the underdog a difficult challenge to overcome.

When he arrived at Craven Cottage in December 2007, the brief he was given was simply to keep the club up and it is hard to think of a better man for the job currently on the market than Hodgson.

For his failings at Liverpool – both tactically and in the transfer market – his reputation is built for this kind of challenge

Roy Hodgson: The Managerial “Journeyman”.

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