Surprised by the fact that Ronaldinho didn’t last more than 18 months with Flamengo? Considering his partying ways and tendencies; head coach changes and the always ominous third-party economic involvement, some could say the writing was on the wall.
The greatest Brazilian player of the last 15 years arriving to the biggest club in Brazil looked like match made in heaven. At least financially, and impact-wise. Ronaldinho is a curious case. Someone who became the best player in the world in 2005-2006’ish, but managed to remain at that level for about 3 seasons before beginning a sharp and sometimes hard to comprehend decline. Not being 100% professional seems to have been the main reason.
But he’s always great to watch. For AC Milan, even for Barcelona during the final days of the Frank Rijkaard regime, and during his first season with Flamengo. Winning the Rio de Janeiro title in 2011 (Carioca) and a fourth place finish in the Brasilerao led to Copa Libertadores berth. Falling in the group stage of the Libertadoes and a disappointing 2012 Carioca was the background for the problems.
Ronaldinho never hit it off with the strict Vanderlei Luxemburgo, and the head coach with more league titles than anyone in the nation (5 with Palmeiras, Corinthians and Cruzeiro) was replaced by the more lenient Joel Santana. Santana promised to build the team around Ronaldinho, but he proved to be a rather unstable building block.
But if the professional problems were the only issue, Ronaldinho wouldn’t had have left the team, free to look for a new club to play for and more importantly, a new source of income. To fund Ronaldinho’s massive wages and lure him away from Europe, the club agreed to a partnership with Traffic, a firm that invests in the economic rights of many players in Brazil.
Ronaldinho’s wages were rumored to be around £400,000 a month, with Traffic paying 75% of that incredible sum. But they weren’t able to market the player correctly, or in short, make enough money off of him. Later it turned out that an official deal was never struck between club and company, leading to Traffic simply stopping to pay the wages. Flamengo couldn’t pay Ronaldinho as well, not receiving his salary for five months now.
Ronaldinho has taken Flamengo to court over unpaid wages, claiming that the club owe him a staggering sum of more than £12 million. In so doing, he rescinded his contract, and is now free to sign for another club. But this is more than just a cautionary tale for clubs to look out for signing the biggest of Brazilian stars for outragoues wages.
Despite all the talk of the financial boom in Brazil, obviously affecting the ability of clubs to pay their players and hold on to stars while attracting talent back from Europe, this is South America, not Europe. Many clubs, even the biggest in the nation, are sometimes run worse than a corner shop grocery store. Dealings without contracts, dealing with third-way parties in the sport and working without contracts while aspiring too high sent out a warning to everyone.
As for Ronaldinho? He’ll find a club. Maybe in Brazil, maybe back in Europe, maybe some Gulf team. There will be plenty of buyers for the 32 year old who still has plenty of football left in him, although his work ethic seems to be fading further and further into somewhere he can’t even tap into anymore.