Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is Ronaldinho Worth 40m Euros Anymore?

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has just announced that the club will not let go of their star midfielder Ronaldinho for a transfer fee less than 40 million Euros. Such a statement would not have been questioned a few seasons back, but with the Brazilian soccer player's star having plunged dramatically in the last two years, it would seem ridiculous to expect any club to want to invest that sort of money on a player who seems to be crippled with injuries, poor attitude, discipline and a lack of motivation. Laporta should re-assess his own valuation of the player, and look to get rid of a player that has disrupted internal team harmony for much of the season, instead of trying to get back as much of the club's initial investment of the player. With the past success on the field for Barcelona when the player could still play for them, as well as the revenue generate from shirt sales and such, this valuation of 40 million Euros could easily be reduced to kickstart any potential transfer of the player to a new club. There should not even be a question of not wanting to send him to a rival team in Spain or even Europe, as Ronaldinho could easily disrupt any team harmony in his future club as he has done so in each of his previous teams.

Laporta also discusses the possibility of Ronaldinho still being at the club come next season, if no club could meet the asking price of 40 million Euros for the Brazilian. No one in his right mind will believe the president's words, as it has been clear the whole season that he had fallen out with the player, and cannot wait to see the back of Ronaldinho. The only reason for this approach right now would be a last desperate measure by the club to get as much out of the transfer as possible, and it might potentially backfire greatly on them if the bidding clubs decide not to take the bait. AC Milan remains the club in the best position to snare the player from Spanish hands, with the player himself declaring his desire to move to the fashion capital of the world. However, it will need some steely negotiations from both sides to quickly see a resolution to an increasingly farcical situation that has dogged Barcelona and ruined their second season in succession. The first doubts over Ronaldinho surfaced last season when Barcelona failed to sustain any challenge both at home and in Europe, and has quickly descended to a circus act this year, with claims and counterclaims about the Brazilian carrying a false injury ordered by the club in order to keep him out of the team.

Frank Rijkaard remains the man caught in the middle and it has been a sad sight watching the Dutchman trying to guide the club to results amidst all the confusion and circumstances that has made Barcelona the laughing stock both in Spain and Europe. While Liverpool's situation with their American owners would come close, the fact remains that Barcelona has a star studded stable of players that should easily conquer both their domestic league and the Champions League. They have failed again this year and are in real danger of ending another season without any trophies if they fail to beat Manchester United tonight in their second leg semi final in the Champions League. It would be impossible for any manager to concentrate and bring results on the field in such a mess, and even Alex Ferguson might have some sympathy for his counterpart in the opposite dugout tonight. One can only wait and see what will happen next in the Barcelona sideshow and what will happen to the team after tonight's game. Will there be a mass exodus of players and manager, or can they quickly rise out from the ashes and challenge Real Madrid again in the La Liga?

Will Spurs Continue To Grow If Sold Again?

There has once again been talk before, during and after the recent match Spurs played against Bolton on Saturday in the English Premier League, about a possible takeover bid from another Canadian consortium interested in taking over an English soccer club. This time, it was the rumoured Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment group who were interested, with its president Richard Peddie spotted at a Spurs game. Peddie has since refuted all such speculation and insisted that it was nothing more than a person catching a live soccer game at the ground, instead of watching it from his own television back home. While such statements have always been hilarious and taken with a pinch of salt, the truth may be that it could have been just so, with the whispered bid to have fallen well short of what current Spurs chairman Daniel Levy would expect from interested parties. After having taken Spurs rather far this season with his smart, albeit under controversial circumstances, move for Spanish manager Juande Ramos, Levy has spoken of his desire to bring more success to the club either through direct management moves from within, or through external forces such as new owners who could possibly provide even more for the club through greater financial prowess.

However, it is questionable whether Spurs will continue to move ahead if they are sold once again. Of course, such speculation and tangents are all purely theoretical, and cannot be proven until such an action takes place, but under the current regime, the club seems to be moving in the right direction already. There is no shortage of money to improve the playing staff, with perhaps only the lack of willingness shown by the biggest stars to not consider a move due to the club's lack of achievements on the field in recent memory. The manager and his team are also first class, as proven by the immediate results he has managed to bring to the club through their first trophy in years. With the new ownership at Liverpool which has plunged the club into ridicule and no lack of fresh crisis every month, there must certainly be some doubts in Spurs fans' minds as to what another change in ownership would bring to their club, which seems to have finally achieved some stability both on and off the field after a messy start to the current league campaign.

Daniel Levy has rightly stated that all considerations for any potential bids will be taken with the shareholders in mind, as well as the numerous fans the club has. Spurs has one of the largest followings not only in England, but also throughout the world, with their legendary flowing football an attraction for many soccer lovers. The return to winning ways without sacrificing any of the flair the club has long been known for, under the tutelage of Juande Ramos, has also won them new fans as well as admirers. The tactical discipline and improved fitness levels have made them difficult to beat as well, when in the past Spurs would have laid down and rolled over for the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, they now show the steel and grit required of winners to carve out positive and satisfying results on the field. As mentioned, there continues to be bright attacking football and soccer flair provided by the likes of star player Dimitar Berbatov and midfielders like Steed Malbranque and Tom Huddlestone, and with potential new recruits to be brought in by Ramos during the summer, Spurs could be an even greater force in the English Premier League next season.

The current situation and state the club is in would therefore require no fire sale of any sort with regards to ownership, as the ship is steady and moving strongly in all the right aspects for creating a greater future for Spurs. Levy and his team must therefore assess all bids to determine that the potential incoming personnel would know how to run a successful club, instead of simply basing any bid on the financial potential that it could bring to the club. Witness the deceit that revealed itself at Liverpool, where the current owners claimed that they would not saddle the club with debt when they took over, but the constant rumours of the club having to sell its stars if they fail to refinance their separate loans with clubs have now surfaced to destabilise any efforts by staff and players to bring glory to the club. If Spurs can avoid these distractions and continue building with ownership that is passionate about the sport as well as the club, then they could very well see a return to the bright lights of the top flight elite soon in the very near future.

Is Ronaldo The Best Soccer Player In The World?

Questions like this will dog Ronaldo till he stops playing, but they are definitely legitimate questions given the player's form the past two years, in which he has helped his club, Manchester United, dominate the game during this period of time. The number of live soccer games that the player has featured for his club and dazzled so many football fans worldwide has been phenomenal, and he has quickly risen to the top of the pile and an easily recognisable icon worldwide. His incredible tally of goals scored this season by playing as a winger officially, has also garnered global accolades for his versatility and skills in being able to strike as efficiently as he has coming in from the sides. Ronaldo has also developed a playing maturity that has seen him put behind his shameful World Cup exploits and not many still bring up the incident in which he prompted the referee to send his club teammate Wayne Rooney off in a crucial game between Portugal and England in the competition. It was an incident that haunted the player for months before he finally received forgiveness from his teammate and now friend, and also his club manager Alex Ferguson who stood by him during those troubled times, and helped develop him into the world class player that he is now.

Picking up his second successive Player of the Year award from the English FA from his exploits this year in the English game, his legitimacy as a true legend in the making in the game of soccer has once again come to the fore. If any, the one remaining criticism Ronaldo still receives is his tendency to ridicule and humiliate his fellow professionals with circus antics with the ball and making them look like clowns. This has angered many fellow professionals, while advocates of the player's ability will point to the players not being able to cope with his skill and ingenuity. There are also just as many critics in the game of football who feel that professionals in soccer should treat each other with mutual respect, and never make one another feel like idiots, which is something many players claim Ronaldo likes to do. The player himself has stated clearly that he never intends to dish out such treatment, and that he was just playing his natural game, which is to use ball tricks to confound and trick his opponents into mistakes. It is definitely a fair argument, but perhaps Ronaldo should also try to inject some humility into his game and attitude towards other players, as you can never become a true legend and be regarded by all with respect and love unless you treat others the same way.

His current club manager Alex Ferguson disagrees with this assessment and feels that the mischievious side to Ronaldo's game is what makes him so special, daring himself to break the barriers of logic and come up with plays that would deceive opponents and provide his own team with the advantage in games. However, there is also another side to Ronaldo's game which has come under intense scrutiny and criticism, and that is his tendency to go to ground easily, despite his ability to get pass players easily. Ronaldo's speed and pace has always been a clear weapon in his arsenal, and very often these attributes have been essential in helping to decide games of a tight nature for Manchester United. He is just as likely to fall under challenges as well, in controversial style and trying to get free kicks and penalties when the easier option might have been to dribble past opposing players. Added to that, Ronaldo has now started to complain about the physical treatment dished out by defenders, and has often tried to get opposing players booked by falling even under the merest of challenges, and rolling on the ground like he had been struck by a bullet or, even worse, a rocket.

These antics have continued to create new enemies for Ronaldo, but the player does not really care and is fully convinced that his style should not be changed and that others are merely jealous of his abilities and success. The one fear might be that players might get frustrated enough to want to harm him on the field, and with the speed of the game nowadays, a fatal challenge could end a player's career anytime. While special players like Ronaldo should always be protected, they have to help in their own cause by playing with a bigger heart and humility, for that can only help prolong their careers and influence in the game. Perhaps he is still young and petulant, but the earlier he learns, the sooner Ronaldo will become truly, the best soccer player in the world in recent times.