How can one player, who was twice the best player in the world, take such a huge drop in quality in the (not so) young age of 31? Mind strength is the first thing that comes up, and that might be true. But even though the head may be in a twist, the talent usually emerges, also considering the said player was playing in a low-tier championship in terms of quality. But that wasn’t the case with Ronaldinho Gaúcho.
For the proportions of his transfer and the expectations around him, he will easily fall in the category of “biggest flops in Brazilian football history”. Leaving Milan in a troubled way (like he always did), Ronaldinho – or R10, due to the number on his jersey – was disputed by 3 teams: Grêmio, Palmeiras and Flamengo. Assis, his brother and agent, managed to make the teams to bid as high as they could, and the best offer came from Flamengo. There he landed, and was presented by Flamengo’s president in front of 20,000 supporters. Hymns were created for him, as well as many funk musics. But he didn’t correspond properly.
Ronaldinho leaves the team with a € 16,000,000 due debt, because of unpaid wages. But it also hurts the team in the technical and marketing aspects. Even though he wasn’t the same, Ronaldinho used to be a good tactical relief for the team. It showed in his numbers: in 70 games, he managed to score 28 times along with 19 assists. It was enough to get Flamengo some key wins and draws throughout his cameo.
As for the marketing aspect, Flamengo might lose even more. The board expected Ronaldinho’s presence not only to attract more attention from fans but to improve the marketability of the team worldwide. It was a failure until the recent days, when rumors emerged about Adidas offering a €14,000,000 per year contract to become Flamengo’s kit sponsor. The team would take Liverpool’s place as one of the branch’s A-teams, earning close to the same amount, and having their shirts worldwide. Adidas probably expected Ronaldinho to be used as a model for the promotions. Now that he is gone, it’s easy to see how it may become a struggle for Flamengo to get an official offer with that amount.
But Flamengo will have some relief with that exit. Ronaldinho was earning €400,000 per month, an amount of money the team couldn’t afford alone. He also brought much pressure in a board that lacks profissionalism. Ronaldinho seemed to be more important than the entire club. The board stubornness made it stick to the player, making the former team manager, Wanderley Luxemburgo, leave due to reported friction with Ronaldinho, and left the current manager hanging on, too. Had he stayed, Joel Santana would probably have been cut down the road.
I hope Brazilian clubs boards learn a lesson with the whole Ronaldinho debacle. But maybe I am too hopeful.