Feature: Are Barcelona better off without Ronaldinho?

7th January 2008, Comments 0 comments

Barcelona's authoritative 2-0 win away to Mallorca has again raised the question of whether the Catalans are better off without Ronaldinho.

7 January 2008

MADRID -  Barcelona's authoritative 2-0 win away to Mallorca has again raised the question of whether the Catalans are better off without Ronaldinho.

Barca must decide by the end of January whether to sell off the Brazilian playmaker in the winter transfer "window".

AC Milan and Chelsea are, apparently, very interested in him, despite an indolent 2007 which has seen him lose his idol status at the Camp Nou.

On Thursday, Barca sporting director Txiki Begiristain said that Ronaldinho was "not for sale", trying to end the insistent rumours about his departure.

But the handsome league win in Palma on Saturday - which leaves Barca four points behind leaders Real Madrid - has again raised the question of whether Frank Rijkaard's team plays better without Ronaldinho.

The goofy Brazilian missed the game with yet another minor injury, this time reportedly tendonitis in his left knee.

What is undeniable is that, without him, Barca were faster, more direct and less ponderous.

Radio station Cadena SER pointed out during the game that "this is a different Barca...without the necessity for every move passing through Ronaldinho, and often slowing up."

Joan Maria Battle, reflecting the Barca vox populi on Sunday in the Sport daily, commented that "with the win, nobody will remember him (Ronaldinho). But the worst thing is that if the team had not won, nobody would have been asking for him."

Various online opinion polls have shown that less than half of Barca fans are now keen to have him stay at the Camp Nou - and that more than a third are keen to sell him off, before his market value falls any further.

Ronaldinho has started only ten of Barca's 18 league matches this season, though he has scored six goals, mostly from penalties and free-kicks.

The most revealing fact, possibly, is that with him on the field, Barca have failed to win away.

The three away wins - against Levante, Valencia and Mallorca - have all been achieved without him, with a more direct style in attack.

Another inescapable fact is that Barca's worst displays of the season - a 2-0 loss away to Getafe and a 1-0 home defeat to Real madrid - have come with Ronaldinho in the starting lineup, with practically every move having to pass through him.

Barca coach Frank Rijkaard now seems opposed to the idea of Ronaldinho being first-choice in away matches - and with good reason.

Ironically, a similar situation existed at Barcelona exactly fifty years ago, when controversial coach Helenio Herrera only used Ladislas Kubala in home matches.

Kubala had the same mercurial talents as Ronaldinho, but the same poor training habits and, allegedly, the same unprofessional nightlife.

Rijkaard now has three days to decide whether to continue with Herrera's strategy of not taking a lethargic playmaker with him on the road, since Barca have a difficult cup match on Wednesday away to defending champions Sevilla.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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