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"Real" Loyalty by George Tsitsonis
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"Real" Loyalty

The summer transfer period came and went and this was not a summer of many blockbuster deals. There were a few, Rio Ferdinand going from Leeds to Manchester United, El Hadji Diouf to Liverpool from Lens, and the pre-World Cup transfers of Michael Ballack and Jon Dahl Tomasson to Bayern Munich and AC Milan respectively, being the highlights. In late summer we also saw Fabio Cannavaro go to Inter Milan and Alessandro Nesta head to Milan as well to join the "Rossoneri" (AC Milan). The biggest transfer of them all however occurred in late August with the sale of Inter Milan and Brazilian forward Ronaldo to Spanish giants Real Madrid.


The Brazilian star wrote a fantastic comeback story for himself during the 2002 World Cup in Japan/South Korea. His 8 goals in the tournament were the most since Gerd Mueller scored 10 in 1970 and helped Brazil go on to claim "La Penta" their record 5th World Cup championship. Ronaldo's performances weren't the greatest he had ever put in, but considering the amount of time he was away from the game through injury, it must be said that Ronaldo performed better than many thought he would. For three years many doubted whether Ronaldo would ever even play football again, let alone lead Brazil to another World Cup title. In November of 2000, Ronaldo had his first surgery on an injured right knee. After four months of intensive rehabilitation on the knee, Ronaldo was cleared to play. Then just minutes into his comeback (coming on for Roberto Baggio in the 59th minute of the 1st leg of the 2000 Italian Cup final) Ronaldo re-injured the knee. Many thought again that his career was over. Ronaldo fought back and persevered through the agony of two surgeries and as mentioned completed a wonderful story with this summer's World Cup. The Brazilian could not burst past defenders with the same blistering pace as before, though he was still dangerous on one-on-one situations and proved to still be one of the world's best matchwinners-providing the Brazilians with many important goals. Everything began to come together for Ronaldo, and Inter themselves were relishing in the fact that "Il Phenomeno" (the Phenomenon) would be back scoring goals by the bunches for them. Massimo Moratti, the Inter president was probably the happiest of all. The loyalty the president of Inter showed in Ronaldo is rarely seen at this level. Moratti treated Ronaldo like a son and believed that the man he called "Ronnie" would always emerge victorious from his battle to return to full-fitness. Moratti publicly supported the Brazilian and on many occasions stated his own desire to see him play again. Moratti even consoled Ronaldo in many instances, including in the locker immediately after Ronaldo had re-injured the knee. As it was, Ronaldo would always have a place in Moratti's Inter. Moratti's trust and loyalty in the buck-toothed superstar was risky for sure, but as Moratti himself said "I paid Ronaldo for years without him playing, surely I can pay him a few more to watch him play for Inter".

"Il Phenomeno" vs. "Ingrate"

As the days passed and Brazil basked in World Cup glory, the Ronaldo saga began. Ronaldo was the person all of football was talking about, and as Moratti has stated, "After the World Cup, Ronaldo changed". Ronaldo, just days after the final, stated that he wanted to stay with Inter and pay the club, Moratti, and the fans back for their loyalty to him. In a 180-degree turn though, Ronaldo changed his mind shortly after those comments. Ronaldo said he wanted to leave the San Siro and go to Real. Inter fans were perplexed and angry, one must only wonder how Moratti felt. What did this change of attitude have to do with? Ronaldo placed the blame on Inter coach Hector Cuper, saying that Inter didn't play good football and that Cuper treated Ronaldo bad when he was trying to comeback from injury. Ronaldo's agent tried to steer his client clear of the increasingly negative publicity by simply stating, "Ronaldo just wants to enjoy his football again". True Italy's Serie A is more defensive minded generally than Spain's La Liga, so perhaps the football is at times more exciting-at least on a superficial "I want to see goals" level. Ronaldo had also stated during various times that he would love the opportunity to team up with France's Zinedine Zidane and compatriot Roberto Carlos at Real. Whatever the reasons for Ronaldo's change of heart, one thing is for sure. Ronaldo never paid back Moratti's support. After a long drawn-out transfer saga that lasted over a month and a half, Ronaldo completed the transfer to Real Madrid just before the European transfer deadline. The transfer was valued at £29.75 million and Real promised Inter a player valued at £7 million for the winter transfer period. Real had pulled off another coup as Florentino Perez, Jorge Valdano and the rest of the Real head-honchos added the world's best known footballer to a squad that already included the likes of Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Raul, and Luis Figo. Inter on the other hand acquired Argentine Hernan Crespo as a replacement. Real fans began dreaming of their own "La Penta", which includes adding the Champions' League title, the Spanish League, the Copa del Rey, and the World Club Cup to their already won European SuperCup. Inter fans on the other hand have changed their cheers from "Il Phenomeno" to "Ingrate"(ingrate) and "Piece of shit, go home!"

"Real" Loyalty

Moratti deserved better, so didn't the Inter fans. Ronaldo has received some bad publicity for this decision, and deservedly so. Real will certainly be stronger with this addition (assuming he stays healthy), whilst Inter will not necessarily be made weaker. The club has been without Ronaldo for nearly three years already, and Cuper has put together a team that will challenge for silverware this year. The issue is not then one of competitiveness but one of trust and loyalty. Its clear to me. Ronaldo had a contract and should have honored it. Ronaldo may have gone to Real with the best of reasons, but with the support he was given by all at Inter he surely had a duty to pay them back. What Ronaldo did is not worse than what many other footballers have done before. He may have not left for the money as he took a cut in pay (though the increased sponsorship money he will gain will more than compensate for this), but he did turn his back on Moratti and co. The verbal pot shots that the Brazilian dished out ex post facto at Cuper were childish and needless. Despite any differences the two may have had, this was clearly a futile effort to restore credibility to his already tarnished image. Indeed, Ronaldo would have done his image much better had he stayed at Inter, or at least not resorted to low blows after he was gone. The deal has been done now and we wait to see Ronaldo back on the pitch again. Truthfully, I have lost a lot of respect for the man that I so vehemently applauded this summer. For all the support that he gave "Ronnie", Moratti deserved a world of better. What he received was a turn of the back. It seems to me that "Il Phenomeno" has undeniably become "Ingrate".