Fading Phenomenon Ronaldo Shining In Siena

Up until Fabio Capello’s arrival in 2006, Ronaldo had enjoyed scoring successes at Real Madrid. In his four full seasons at the Bernabeu, the Brazilian hitman had ended as his club’s top scorer on each occasion.

The fantastic forward had rebuilt himself and his career after devastating knee injuries had threatened to kill his career in the late nineties.

But he came back, had helped his nation to their fifth World Cup title and that won him the move to join the Galacticos.

Yet by the Christmas of 2006, it seemed like his time at Real had come to an end and possibly his career was on the line too.

Italian disciplinarian Capello had arrived from Juventus and felt Ronaldo was over weight and not fit enough, accusations that continually followed the striker around. Fabio only gave Ronaldo seven La Liga outings up until January and only one goal came from those fleeting appearances.

It was decided that the two couldn’t coexist in Spain’s capital city and Ronaldo was sold for a paltry fee of €8m to Serie A giants AC Milan.

‘Washed up’, ‘fat’ and ‘too old’ were all terms that seemed to be constantly mentioned when Ronaldo arrived back in Milan, having formerly starred for Milan city rivals Internazionale in the nineties.

He made his second San Siro debut on the eleventh of February, with the unusual number of ninety-nine on the back of his shirt but he didn’t really do much in his twenty-seven minute cameo.

Rossoneri would have to wait six days before playing their next match against Siena.

In the lead-up to the game it’s believed Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti had decided Ronaldo was still not fit enough to start the game.

The Brazilian star striker pleaded with his manager to play him and stated he’d score if he started.

At this time AC Milan had another magical Brazil international in Kaka. The world class attacking midfielder shared a story about training that week:

We were in the locker-room and laughing before training, Mr Ancelotti arrived and, a little serious and a little joking, he asked us “Why aren’t you focused on tomorrow’s match?”

Ronaldo replied : “Because we are talking to each other for a while, training has yet to begin”

Then Ancelotti ironically asked him ‘Ronaldo, do you know who we’re playing tomorrow?”

“Yes, sure. Against Siena” Ronnie replied.

And then the coach continued “Well, and who are their defenders?”

Ronaldo’s answer was frank and sincere: “No Mister, I don’t know. But I am sure they know who I am”

And in the locker-room a collective laugh started.


So heading into the Serie A encounter against Siena, Ronaldo had been disregarded by Real Madrid and had his fitness questioned by his new manager at Milan.

Not for the first time in his illustrious career, O Fenômeno had to prove his worth again and thumb nose his doubters.

Game day: 3pm – 17th February 2007 – Stadio Artemio Franchi – Siena

Ronaldo started against The Robur alongside the likes of Kaka, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo and Cafu.

It was certainly a more rotund Ronaldo than the muscular beast that first arrived in Italy, a decade earlier.

On one minute and fifty-two seconds the superstar forward got his first touch of the ball. He was positioned on the left hand-side, just in off the wing and about fifteen yards from the Siena penalty box. He made a bit of a laboured movement and then a clumsy pass to fellow forward Ricardo Oliveria, who couldn’t keep possession of the football. It was not the most auspicious of starts and would have left many thinking maybe Mister Ancelotti had been right in thinking he should’ve kept his new signing on the bench.

Four minutes later and Milan’s number ninety-nine was again on the ball. He had come deep, probably in the hope to do something more efficient with it than he had managed with his first attempt. A quick step over and a simple pass to a team-mate and that was that. Nothing special but you can tell he was trying to feel his way into the encounter.

During the eighth minute he once again comes deep and plays an interchange with his midfield. After the exchange the TV producer pans in on a close up of the famous face and the striker is already breathing heavily.

We didn’t see Ronaldo for the next seven minutes.

Then all of a sudden Kaka quickly transitions Milan into attack mode with a probing ball through the centre, Oliveria slip the ball to his right and Pirlo is there to dink a cross into the box. It’s inch perfect as Ronaldo leaps, he meets the ball and loops it into the opposite corner. Ronaldo wheels away in celebration, surrounded by his teammates and with that trademark grin. He was no longer looking rusty, sluggish or tired.

The AC Milan lead wouldn’t last long as an edge of the box drive by Simone Vergassola would square things up just four minutes later.

On the twenty-second minute we saw Ronaldo get back involved as he picked up a cross field pass and drove a run into the opposition penalty area. The funny thing is that two defenders had tried to stop that run and it was a third that had to come across and cut out his pass, which won Milan a corner.

Just before the half hour mark, the Brazilian receives the ball on the deck with his back to goal. He takes a touch before slipping a though ball into Olivieria’s path, Ronaldo was immediately fouled after the pass but Ricardo regained Milan’s lead with a low finish. The legendary hitman dusted himself down and joined in the celebrations.

With the first thirty minutes Ronnie had provided his new team with a goal and an assist. Showing that self-confidence, supreme talent and enriched experience can give you an edge over opposing defenders.

Within a minuted Siena once again got themselves back on level terms, this time after a bit of head-tennis – Massimo Maccarone smashed in a half-volley.

As the first-half carried on, Ronaldo again received the ball in a deep position and he was again surrounded by two defenders. He flicked it through one of their legs and was then barged to the ground. Clearly his opponents had heard of the phenomenal one and feared him. That foul was just the first of many they would conceded against him.

On the thirty-eighth minute and the Milan goal-getter would make a rare mistake in front of goal. He was played into a one-on-one position with Siena keeper Alex Manninger. Ronaldo would open up his body, send Manninger the wrong way before unintentionally skewing his shot wide.

That would bring Ronaldo Luiz Nazário de Lima’s influence on the first-half to a close.

Five minutes into the second half and Ronaldo received the ball deep on the left-hand side of Siena’s half with his back to goal. He was chopped down immediately. There was a clear fear in the mind’s of the opposing defence that they didn’t want Ronaldo, no matter his perceived condition, to turn and run at them!

The next time he collected the ball he was again kicked and harassed by his opponents. You get the feeling that he was now being targeted and not for the first time in his career. Was he up for the fight?

As the sixty-seventh minute arrived, a free-kick was floated into Siena’s box. Ronaldo attacked the chance with a diving header that flash just over the bar.

Ronaldo then starts to drift out the game and you’ve got to believe Signor Ancelotti must’ve been thinking of subbing his new signing at this point.

Yet with fifteen minutes to go, the Milan boss hauls off Cafu and Pirlo in favour of Massimo Oddo and Yoann Gourcuff. It was actually smart defensive play from from the Brazilian striker just outside of his own box, where he was fouled, that bought the AC Milan boss time to make his double change.

Only a few minutes after that double change and I Rossoneri midfielder Cristian Brocchi would receive his marching orders for a clumsy, deliberate kick at an opponent.

With Milan down to ten men and with the game standing at 2-2 draw away from home, Ancelotti had another decision to make regarding a substitution. Carlo immediately decided he had to shore things up in midfield and called Massimo Ambrosini from the bench. A forward had to be sacrificed but despite previous fitness concerns and the fact he had had a fairly uneventful last five minutes, Ronaldo was spared and it was Olivera that made way.

With eleven minutes to go and with his ability to score already proven in the first hour, Carlo Ancelotti obviously had belief that his Brazilian legend could still be a possible game changer!

It took just a further two minutes for Ronaldo to repay Ancelotti’s trust in him, as he tapped in Milan’s third and his second of the game. The hitman quite rightly ran straight into fellow countryman Kaka’s arms to celebrate as the attacking midfielder’s direct run and neat cutback that laid the goal on a plate for O Fenómeno.

The other thing to mention about this goal is Ronaldo’s awareness of the defenders around him and where Kaka’s going. When his teammate first gets the ball, the forward has his back to goal and looks to be heading towards his own half. Then as Kaka beats his man and heads goal-wards, Ronaldo turns but doesn’t sprint to keep up with his compatriot. What he’s essentially doing is acting like he isn’t a real threat, while actually creating room for himself inside the penalty area. The finish wasn’t the cleanest but that doesn’t matter as long as you hit the target.

As the game reaches it’s climax, Siena don’t give up. They pressurise Milan whenever they’re on the ball. At one point three of their players are battling to dispose Ronaldo of the ball. They are also intent to attack at every opportunity, still believing they can get something from this clash.

With the clock approaching ninety minutes, Siena are swamping forward and pinning the ten men of Milan back into their own half of the field.

A brief flurry forward from Ancelotti’s men sees Ronaldo get it on the touchline as he again has to battle against more than one marker. He goes down clutching his knee after an innocuous challenge. Nothing given.

As the maestro receives treatment, Siena smell blood. They charge forward again, laying siege at Milan’s goal. A nice cross comes in from the right and misses everyone but Massimo Maccarone. The tall marksman controls the ball with his left before lashing it home with his right boot.

Both Ronaldo and Ancelotti look despondent. Milan vice-chairman Adriano Galliani had seen enough and had departed from his seat in the stands.

The ten men of AC Milan had just four minutes of injury time to secure what now looked an unlikely victory.

The away side did decide to make one last stand and piled forward.

With just a minute left to go, AC Milan forced Siena into conceding a corner. It floats in and there’s confusion in the penalty area. Somehow Cristian Molinaro managed to find the back of his own net and scored an own goal.

Ronaldo jumps high in celebration, for the first time in the match his team had scored without his involvement but he still cheered as if he’d scored the winner himself!

The game ends.

You could tell just by looking at Ronaldo that this was him in decline, physically more than anything else.

Yet Siena still feared him. They gave him heavy kicks and had players surrounding him whenever he received the ball. The fact he could block all that out and still create so much creative havoc shows what a world class talent he was.

The Milan players clearly adored and supported him. They celebrated his achievements during that game as if they were playing with a hero.

It was a game that showed the world that Ronaldo could still weave some magic and that he wasn’t as washed up as so many had predicted.

It was a brief renaissance and a reminder just why he was the best player of his generation.

Leave a Reply