Straight from the dark heart of Italy
The sheer folly of AC Milan’s infatuation with Ronaldinho has finally come home to roost.
Silvio Berlusconi was so attracted to the dazzling Brazilian that he ignored the stories of late nights spent on the dance floor followed by late mornings under the covers, and moved heaven and earth to incite those on-pitch Samba skills to land of la dolce vita before showering his new beau with all the attention of the smitten.
But now even the old sugar daddy seems ready to turn his back on the fading pin-up and allow Leonardo to cast him adrift.
Poor old Dinho took badly to being left out of the Champions League game at Marseille and turned up for the official club photo-call on Friday complaining of a high temperature.
Seemingly unable to raise any semblance of a smile until some wag cracked a joke about “swines” and “flu”, the sickly star was able to drag himself into the team photo – evidence at least that he was a Milan player at the start of the 2009-010 season – before jumping back into his car and off home again.
More worryingly than a few sniffles is that the patient is in terminal decline – although he was well enough to pop along to the San Siro on Sunday to watch his team-mates labour to a 1-0 win over Bologna.
How he felt about the only goal coming from the Clarence Seedorf, who covets his position, is anyone’s guess – but he didn’t look much like a man suffering from the raging fever suggested in some quarters.
In fact, he was quite chipper - sporting a Lenny Karvitz circa 2005 look replete with giant beanie and wrap-around shades.
Conveying rocker-in-repose image may be one of the reasons why Ronaldinho increasingly finds himself on the outside looking in.
He’s still only 29 and should in theory be in his prime but many observers believe he’s selling his employers short; content to scoop up the 7.5million Euro-a-year salary, he could probably pay Adrian Mutu’s 17m Euro fine in cash.
Is it also the case that he has enough money never to have to lift a finger again, and so he won’t bother lifting a leg now and then?
Have his physical powers declined that much or is it seeing Lionel Messi claim his mantle as the world’s top player that has all but extinguished his desire?
More questions than answers at the moment, but it’s hard to believe that someone who obviously loves the game, and has given every football follower so much pleasure, would suddenly lose interest when offered the chance to continue his career at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Maybe only the player himself knows the reasons but whatever is rattling around in his head there have been a number of occasions since moving to Milan when he has not acted in a professional manner.
There was the summer incident at a Milan nightclub when a group of Rossoneri followers felt obliged to tell the fun-loving late bird to head home early and get a good night’s sleep.
Then there was a little-reported training ground episode at the start of the season.
With the full squad already out and going through a stretching routine, Ronie, sporting his trademark goofy grin and wearing a nappy – in fact on closer inspection it was a pair of shorts pulled up around the top of his thighs – came strolling out of the dressing room to hoof a ball into the middle of the pitch.
If he was expecting hoots of laugher he was sorely disappointed. Leonardo informed his shame-faced compatriot that proper attire should be worn at all times and that the first-team squad was expected to start training as a group at the same time.
That’s not to say that there have not been plenty of arms around his stooped shoulder recently, but genuine affection must be tinged with disappointment that the player has lost his way so badly.
While the Ronaldinho mystery will no doubt rumble on, back on the pitch it was business as usual at the top of the table.
Juventus maintained their 100% record thanks in part to Gigi Buffon’s heroics once again; Antonio Cassano ran Siena ragged to keep Sampdoria level with the Old Lady; and Jose Mourinho was sent off for protesting as Inter sneaked past Cagliari.
Genoa’s Europa League exertions got the better of them as they found themselves 2-0 down at Chievo after just nine minutes and finally went down 3-1: an early warning that battling on two fronts with a small squad, however talented, will take its toll.
Toiling, on the other hand, are AS Roma who are in such a mess financially that apparently the players have not been paid since April.
The Ultras of the Curva Sud weren’t too happy with having to pay to watch their beloved club’s fall from grace – and boycotted the first 30 minutes of Sunday evening’s home game against Fiorentina.
They missed Francesco Totti score twice and are no doubt planning further demonstrations, citing them as a decisive factor in the Giallorossi’s improvement as Daniele de Rossi added third – although the Viola players seemed to be acting like the ones who had missed a couple of pay packets.
It’s a pity Milan hadn’t thought of paying Ronaldinho on a performance-related scheme.
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Desperate for Ron to fight his way back into the Selecao for the world cup. Pull your finger out son.
Ronaldinho is that rare Brazilian that its okay to like... unfortunately as your article points out, there isn't much to like about him anymore... too bad, I think he'll end up in the Turkish League .
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