Thursday, 11 June 2009
The Ronaldo Case
I want to write more about Matt Simpson, and I might be able to do that a bit later, or maybe tomorrow morning, not in this post. I was preparing to explore the significance of the late elections, the operatic (opera buffo) manoeuvres of Gordon Brown with full closeted chorus of red-nosed Hebrew Slaves, and the election of the (now with extra egg ingredient) BNP here, as indeed, more worryingly, of Jobbik in Hungary, when the news of Ronaldo's £80 million transfer breaks. That means he costs £24 million more than Kaka, and that the combined outlay on the two is £136 million. Which is £36 million more than the whole of Newcastle United.
I am curious about the effects of the global financial crisis on football - including all the major English teams, since Liverpool seem to be feeling the effects. (There's Milan too now, of course.) And I think back to the fall of Leeds United that started when the team finished 5th in the Premier League, just out of the top four who were all going to receive serious income from playing in the Champions League. Leeds spent a vast amount of money, much more than they could afford, in the gamble to become a major European power. Now they can't get out of League Two (the humble old Third Division).
I suspect there is much that is precarious in football generally, but that Real have some sort of state support, a kind of insurance. Or so I read once, a few years ago, when their finances were in a terrible mess. I can't remember where I read that so I may be misremembering. The idea was that Real cannot be allowed to fail because Real is the face of Spain (Barcelona being a Catalan team cannot, and would not want to be, the face of Spain). So Real can pump up the balloon for ever without it exploding. It makes life very tough for the smaller teams in Spain of course, not to say a little boring for the fans at large. You might say that of England too but at least there are four teams, and possibly more, who might win major prizes. As for Scotland - I have always had a fond space in my heart for Raith Rovers, simply because I like the name (as does my father), but I hold out no great hopes for them.
Regarding Ronaldo himself, who knows? He had an extraordinary year last year and a very good one this, though as all the fans say, he has been difficult to love. I think he is a marvellous footballer but has limitations in that he is a player of minutes rather than matches. He has of course played superb matches too, but that is not characteristic of him. He is, as everyone agrees, peevish and vain and - quite often - lazy, but there is no denying his value to the team on the field, that is to say in that brilliant, time-dense moment that expands into a whole match in the memory, a moment that could happen any time and is therefore always a cause for hope .
As a person, he may mature into a more likeable human being but only if he gets laid off with some injury or other. I expect him to start brilliantly at Real then to get a little drunk on himself and alienate some of the others. Real have bought only attackers. Their defence needs support and it won't get it from CR7.
So maybe it was time for him to go. I suspect United have had his best years and that the team, with him, was on the turn in any case. I doubt whether CR7's graph, and with him the team's too, would have risen next year and still less the year after. Buying him for £12 million or so was a wonderfully successful gamble. Most gambles are not successful. We'll see what Real think in a year or so.
What I did love about his presence and attitude was his sheer nerve in doing things English players are generally dissuaded from doing for fear of being called Flash Harry or One-trick Pony. There is a long line of foiled genius in English football with its eternal cry of "Get stuck in!" It is as if people feared there might be something a touch effeminate in that flowing grace.
Well, there is. There always has to be. There is no genius without it. Courage: fine. Industriousness: fine. Heart: fine. Nous: fine. But grace and feint and delicacy combined with power and enthusiasm? Careful now! Damn Careful now! I think. But then I am a Hungarian by birth not a True Born Englishman.
Ronaldo could be absolutely exhilarating and I will miss that, miss it deeply. But others will come along and the team may - who knows? - actually improve.