I'll cut the introduction and go straight to the point. There is not one player who is as influential to his team as Ronaldinho is to Milan. Now, I do not want to get into the whole "who is the best player" alive debate because it has already been settled by Giuseppe Favalli.
Ronaldinho is one of those legends that your grandchildren will be asking about, and you can smile at them and say you had the privilege of watching them grace the pitch every week for several years.
Ronaldinho group hug
He has lost a few steps and gained a few pounds since his magical Barcelona days that saw him winning the coveted Ballon d'Or award. He might have gotten in trouble a few times for his late night frolicking at various Brazilian Salsa clubs, but this past year maturity finally took over and he dedicated himself to proving the world wrong.
Sometimes it baffles me how Ronnie became the forgotten man at Barcelona. It's amazing how a lack of confidence can shatter a player's perfomance on the pitch. When he didn't feel the love from the blaugrana fans, gluttony and laziness engulfed him and he went on a two year eating and partying sabbatical.
Milan, who needed to roll the dice after a slew of failed transfers, decided to gamble on the Brazilian playmaker, who was deemed as surplus at Barcelona. His first season at Milan was a rollercoaster ride. He played the first game in the Serie A against Bologna. Ronnie was phenomenal. But for a variety of reasons after that, he was inconsistent and had a difficult time breaking into the starting rotation under Ancelotti.
The main obstacle that hindered his progress was Ricardo Kaka. It has been well documented that Kaka and Ronaldinho had a difficult time recreating their magical club form at International level. For reasons unknown, they failed to develop any semblance of chemistry together. As rumours started floating around about a possible Kaka departure, I bought into it as long as we reclaimed our young French starlet Yoann Gourcuff from Bordeaux (who would have excelled in Leonardo's 4-3-3 alongside Pirlo and Ambrosini.)
Fast forward to last summer. Florentino Perez offers an unimaginable sum of money for a player who was clearly deteriorating and becoming injury prone. Kaka's game is mainly built on breakneck speed, and once that evades him, how effective can he truly be? Milan on the other hand, becomes the anti-Perez and focuses on frugal purchases of young players who might not have the name, or hair gel supply of a Cristiano Ronaldo type. (Unfortunately Abate has just made this previous statement false, as he has become so influenced by Hollywood Beckham, that he not only shares the right wing with him, but the same exact hairstyle as well.)
Leonardo was appointed as the new head coach of Milan, and right away declared to the media his full support of Ronaldinho. This was clearly the turning point of Ronnie's career. He finally was handed the car keys to the team, and was promised a chance to prove his worth. Taking up Kaka's position, he has been more influential than anyone could have ever imagined. Watching him this year has been a thrill ride to say the least. His pinpoint passes, extraordinary vision, and world class technique leave me, and his opponents, in awe. Right fullbacks unlucky enough to face him have made remarks this year about him being the hardest player they've ever had to defend.
Seeing Ronnie's trademark smile every time he plays is refreshing, and just goes to show his current mentality. But even more importantly, it seems like El Gaucho has a role in every single goal that is scored for Milan. He even allows former Real Madrid masseuse Klaas Huntelaar to find the back of the net. And to think that he hasn't been called up to the Brazilian national team is scandalous to say the least. If anyone is wondering where this Milan revival has come from that has seen us go within four points of Inter. One word:
Update 3.2.2010: 'Coach' Dunga (and I use the word coach loosely) has just said NO to Ronaldinho & Pato for the world cup. And has said YES to the following: Kleberson, Julio Baptista, Nilmar, Grafite. What is the equivalent of an epic screw up like this one?
Does the thought of daily Milan updates make you salivate? Then satiate your hunger and follow me on twitter