In preparation for tomorrow’s Brazil-Argentina “friendly”, we in the CultFootball pressroom have been having some exchanges as to whether or not Ronaldinho’s form warranted his call up to the side, especially after having been so unceremoniously dumped for the summer’s big tourney in S. Africa. Mark Gannon, our man in Brazil, lays it out plainly below.
I watched the season of The Simpsons after Conan O’Brien left to take over Late Night, but I didn’t like it, so I stopped watching the show. The next year, friends started telling me about episodes that actually sounded good. It seemed like the show might actually be back on track, so I thought I might try to watch it again. I’d still forget to tune in most of the time, and on the occasions when I did, it sucked. But frequently, when I didn’t watch, my friends would tell me about the episodes, and they sounded really good.
I mention this because I’ve been thinking about it since getting Sean’s e-mail, and it occurred to me that I’ve never actually watched a Milan game in which Ronaldinho played well. I’ve seen Milan games without him, Milan games in which he didn’t play well, and highlights of Milan games in which he did play at least well enough to make the highlights. But I don’t think Ronaldinho has ever had a good game for Milan when I sat down and watched the whole game.
I think Ronaldinho probably should have been on the Seleção for the 2010 World Cup, but I don’t expect him to be a starter in 2014 at age 34.
He is already a very different player from the one he was when he shone at Barça, and a good part of the difference looks to me like bad aging. That said, his peak was so high that he can still be a very useful player.
Milan beat Inter yesterday in the 175th Derby della Madonnina, 1-0 from a penalty taken by Ibrahimovic in the 5th minute (or around the 5th minute, very early at least). It was a rough game, with both sides playing very physically. The Rossoneri were more determined to sit in defense and disrupt Inter’s attack, though they did put together some dangerous movement in the final third, while Inter never looked like they would score, their attack fizzling consistently before reaching the danger area. This was in no small part due to Gattuso’s doggedness and complete disregard for personal safety.
There were plenty of points to consider in the game: Ibrahimovic sending Materazzi to the hospital, the bench-warming skills of Ronaldinho, the speed and strength of my new favorite Milan player Kevin-Prince Boateng…but let’s focus on Inter’s coach instead.
Benitez took a team with no changes to the side that won the Serie A title and the Champion’s League title last year, and has them 6 points off the lead and currently out of a Champion’s league qualifying position. His response, (I paraphrase) “I need new players in the transfer window.”
Let’s take one of his strikers, Diego Milito, who last year was Serie A’s top goalscorer. Under Benitez, he’s been total shit. What’s Benitez’s take on this?
Last season this team won lots of games in the end because Milito scored lots of goals while now he has problems.
Brilliant stuff, Rafa. Hey are you thinking maybe that your team, the team that won it all last year, isn’t good enough, and you should buy a bunch of new players in the transfer market this January? That seems to have worked well for you at Liverpool, where you left a flailing side after having spent millions dollars over your time there on players not worth a damn, then blamed it all on the owners. Oh, here’s a quote from you:
Who could arrive in the next transfer window? All the players expect someone of quality to maintain the level of the side, a side that in the past season won a lot and therefore got tired and has struggled to start again.
I seem to remember one of your excuses at Liverpool was that the owners didn’t know anything about football. Well your new owner does, and this is what he thinks of your side’s performance.
I did not like it at all, as we didn’t do enough to deserve to win. It seems difficult to move forward playing like this. It doesn’t seem to me like we suffered against Milan’s play. The problem is that we actually didn’t play. It’s a different thing entirely and much more grave. I didn’t like anything. One can understand losing a derby, but this time I didn’t like the approach or the aftermath. We didn’t do enough to think about winning. This won’t do at all. It was an ugly game and we did nothing because we became different.
Not good, Rafa, not good. You blame your players, the staff and your former owners, and never yourself. Soon you will be exposed as a fraud and run out of Italy.
A better showing for the Rossoneri today against Madrid, due in no small part to the injection of pace at the center of their formation in the form of Kevin-Prince Boateng. Gattuso was a demon in defense, doubling Ronaldo every time he touched the ball, and making a general nuisance of himself whenever Madrid came with 40 yards of goal.
Still, it was Madrid who dominated chances throughout the game as well as having the better of threatening possession. Their first goal was a thing of beauty, and there were times when the ball moved so quickly between their attacking four that Milan was left simply standing and watching.
The side the Italians fielded today was slightly younger than the one the sent out in Spain, and they looked more determined to defend even if nothing was really materializing up front (save for a couple of Ibrahimovic chances that he really should’ve scored). Maybe they’re just too slow? Milan is obviously full of aging stars, but how old are they exactly?
The chart below represents the ages of all the players who participated in today’s match, Madrid in (away) blue, and Milan in their red (actual red!: RGB 158, 51, 50). The vertical bars are the average age of Madrid (25 years) and the average age of Milan (29.8 years). It doesn’t take into account exactly how long the players were on the field, so Pipo is skewing the average a bit in that area. By the way, he was a yard offside on his second goal.
With the signing of Robinho and Ibrahimavic to put alongside Ronaldinho and Pato, AC Milan have created the most impressive forward line in Serie A. Some will say that Robinho is too temperamental to play in Europe and should stay at home in Brazil. People will talk about how Ronaldinho is fat, slow, and old. Others will suggest that with so many creative sorts, there won’t be a willingness to win ugly, a necessity when facing physical, defensive minded teams.
I grew up watching Milan on the RAI Sunday morning feed on a local broadcast. Back then they had the magical Dutch trio of van Basten, Gullit, and Rijkaard, and though the broadcast was entirely in Italian, I could still pick out their names when the commentator mentioned them (they tended to stick out on the field, too). Milan have had some great teams over the years, but never have they had such a combination of attacking talent as they had then. But maybe now, with this trio of Brazilians alongside a lanky Swede with a sense for the fantastic, they may just create the sort of wonderful attacking style the rossoneri haven’t seen in years, and may just create a ripple in the power balance of European club football.