Can Ronaldinho really get back to his best?
Ronaldinho is enjoying his best form in four years but he is still some way off the awesome performances he managed in the middle of the last decade (Noughties? ).
Sunday’s hat-trick in AC Milan’s 4-0 win over Siena featured a penalty and a close range header, but the third goal where he sent a perfect shot into the top corner from distance was a reminder of the Brazilian at his Barcelona best.
But only a reminder. He has lost a yard of pace and some of the passes he tries to make are baffling. Increasingly though, he is splitting defences open and playing with that really broad smile on his face, which has rarely happened since winning the Champions League with Barca in 2006.
It’s the Milan derby on Sunday and leaders Inter will be keeping an extra eye on the 29-year-old.
The main reason he is flourishing is rookie coach Leonardo’s new tactics, which have propelled Milan to second in Serie A after an awful start. Ronaldinho is now playing on the left of a front three rather than behind a front two meaning he has slightly less responsibility and if a pass isn’t on, a bog-standard cross towards Marco Borriello’s head will at least excite the crowd.
Another reason is the absence of Kaka. With both of them at the San Siro last season, at times it was like they were falling over each other.
He tried a bicycle kick on Sunday, something I’ve not see him do in ages. But it didn’t go in. I think that might be the difference at the moment between old Ronaldinho and new Ronaldinho.
Before, about 75 percent of his tricks came off. Now it’s around 40 percent. Bridging that gap will be difficult now he is pushing 30 and his fitness, despite the work of the famed MilanLab, is not quite what it was.
All top players have a purple patch. Will Cristiano Ronaldo ever reach the zenith of the last two seasons at Manchester United? Real Madrid team mate Kaka has not looked the same player he was in 2007. Wayne Rooney is probably in the middle of that patch now but how long will it last?
Even the likes of Zinedine Zidane were not great for a long, long time. The Frenchman was not that well-known in the early years of his career.
So Ronaldinho may have had “his day” but current performances could put him back in the thoughts of Brazil coach Dunga.
Then who knows? Ronaldo, another Brazilian, looked to be past his best before lighting up the 2002 World Cup…
PHOTO: AC Milan’s Ronaldinho celebrates after scoring against Siena in their Italian Serie A soccer match at San Siro stadium in Milan, January 17, 2010. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini