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Expectation weighs heavily on Ronaldo

February 3rd, 2009

Ronaldo, remember him? No, not the sultry Portuguese superstar with the slinky skills and diamond earring so coveted by Real Madrid who struts around Old Trafford for Manchester United like some kind of permanently bronzed peacock.

Photo:chicolang2009

Photo:nikefutebol

We are of course talking about the  former three-time FIFA World Player of the Year whose name was omitted from the team-sheet in the 1998 World Cup Final only to be pencilled in again a few minutes before kick-off, an incident and defeat many Brazilians blame on shirt sponsor Nike.

After another career-threatening injury, at the end of a two-year spell at AC Milan, these days Ronaldo, complete with black curly hair, is plying his trade at São Paulo club Corinthians.

Well, plying his trade is one way to put it.

Since his unveiling to Corinthians fans in December, Ronaldo, now 32, has yet to kick a ball in anger, after rupturing a knee for the third time in his career before leaving Milan.

He did though recently do a bit of TV match commentary as part of a sponsorship deal, if that counts.

But ask a São Paulo taxi driver or indeed most anybody and they will tell you that Corinthians, which took its name from the English amateur club founded in the 19th century, have pulled off something of a marketing masterstroke.

Just as it was suggested when England’s David Beckham joined Real Madrid that he was there to sell replica team shirts, so too is the man and [woman] in the street saying that about Ronaldo.

After a calamitous first-ever relegation to Brazil’s Serie ‘B’ at the end of 2007, Corinthians bounced back as champions before Christmas.

After shunning Flamengo, the Rio de Janeiro-based club he supported as a boy, Ronaldo’s switch to Corinthians has put the spotlight well and truly on the São Paulo-based club - just as the club’s directors had hoped, even though much of the talk has been about the player’s weight.

During his time on the sidelines, a clearly happy, but oversized Ronaldo was pictured in celebrity magazines cavorting aboard a motor cruiser.

On the pitch, little is now expected of Brazil’s once most-feared player who could be ready to play again by the end of February, after a year out of the game.

After such a long layoff and debilitating injury, the big question that hangs over Ronaldo is whether he still has the desire, something he is said to have lacked in recent years.

When he finally does cross the white line, until May Ronaldo will have to content himself with playing in the São Paulo state championship, – a form of competition alien to watchers of European football.

Nevertheless, if somehow Ronaldo can shed some extra pounds and show glimpses of the player he once was, you can maybe forget the World Cup winner’s medal in 2002 and his status as the tournament’s highest scorer, it may well rank among his biggest achievements.

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