A RONALDINHO-SHAPED HOLE
I am, however, one of those fortunate people who has a reasonable amount of control over when and how I do my work. It’s partly because my output is supposed to be “creative”, which gives me a bit of latitude with deadlines, and partly because I’m a misanthropic sod and I suspect that a fair few colleagues are a little scared of me. I hope so, anyway: I’ve been working on a scary persona for years.
So here I was, seated and with coffee to hand, and thinking that Gilles Peterson’s In Brazil compilation would be the right mixture of funky and relaxed to begin the week. And I open my newspaper and there, staring up at me, is a leader article which tells me that Roman the Terrible has decided that what he needs, more than anything else in the world, is a Ronaldinho. A Ronaldinho Gaucho, if we’re being picky. Ronaldo used to be Ronaldinho, because there was another Ronaldo (if this isn’t making sense, write in and let me know and I’ll devote the next piece to explaining the intricacies of Brazilian nickname conventions).
You know, for a clever man – he has to be, right? I mean, you don’t amass money like that without a few brain cells to rub together – Roman doesn’t seem to learn very quickly. Last season, we added a pair of bona fide superstars to a League-winning side, and what happened? We lost the league, and in the process came close to alienating two ever-present members of a together, well-drilled squad. This season, the missing piece in Chelsea’s jigsaw is, apparently, Ronaldinho-shaped.
Just for a moment, let’s have a think about how this might pan out. With an £85m buy-out clause in his Barcelona contract, not to mention the suggestion that he’d want a considerable hike in his already impressive wages, Ronaldinho would almost certainly weigh in as the biggest transfer in history. We could probably say – assuming that Barca would let him go – we wouldn’t pay that entire fee. There’s always room for manoeuvre, right? So let’s have a wild stab in the dark and call it a one-off of £50m (because it’s a nice round number, and coincidentally the figure that several of the tabs have plumped for) plus another £50m in wages over 5 years. Make sense? No? Tough. That’s everyone’s guess, and I’m too relaxed to make my own up. So after the kerfuffle of Terry’s contract renegotiation and Lampard’s ongoing talks, the man who failed so spectacularly to bring any of his much-vaunted abilities to the World Cup (in case you’re confused, I’m talking about Ronaldinho, not Frank) will be brought in to comprehensively out-Rolex the pair of them. With Sheva, Ballack, Captain JT, Frank and Ronnie all in the dressing room, are we going to have space for the rest of the team? How many superstars can one squad manage? Could Barca ship the lad out simply to make way for the huge ego of Thierry Henry, currently vying for shift with both Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi?
Then there’s the manager’s authority (or lack of it). José has declared the dressing room door closed, unless there’s a chance we can wheel Glen Johnson through it before Friday with no one noticing. Ronaldinho certainly doesn’t sound like a José player: patchy form, likes the nightlife, and so on. Patchy form we can handle – we had Robben for three years, after all – but could the manager’s self-image survive another round of muttering about owner’s signings? I’ve heard the statements from both club and manager and I can still honestly say I don’t know who bought Sheva last year. I’ve also heard the gossip about Roman’s bemusement with the English managerial system, and how it is that the coach has so much responsibility. The owner / manager tension has, we’re told, been dealt with. We’re all working together now.
Well, let me put myself in José’s shoes. It’s not that tricky, after all: I’m acerbic… moody… wanted by millions of women (one of the previous three statements may not be true, by the way). How would I feel if my employer were to give me the gift that really says he cares: a whole Ronaldinho, complete with sports accessory package? I’d be suspicious, that’s what. It sounds like a rod to beat the manager with. It sounds like a prompt to play someone else’s style. If you want expansive football, hire Rijkaard. Or Keegan, come to think of it. Gifting the most pragmatic manager in world football with the most mercurial player sounds like hiring Roberto Duran to fight for you, then telling him he has to dance like Ali. I’m not saying that the player couldn’t fit into the team. He’s a great player: one of the finest the world has seen. But his form and style don’t fit into the philosophy that the manager has tried to bring to the club. And, in the unlikely event that we see him in a blue shirt by Friday, he may end up being more trouble than he’s worth.