Mano Menezes banks on Ronaldinho renaissance

LONDON, Craven Cottage – SK.  After a disappointing Copa America and defeat in Germany, Mano Menezes has recalled Ronaldinho Gaucho to the Brazil squad ahead of the friendly international against Ghana at Craven Cottage. Menezes believes that a reinvigorated Ronaldinho can help to get his Brazil back on the right track.

Ronaldinho’s recent, excellent performances with Flamengo have caught the eye of Mano Menezes. At moments Ronaldinho has shown glimpses of his former best. The shrewd Vanderlei Luxemburgo positions Ronaldinho closer to goal to mask his ageing legs. It has enabled Ronaldinho with his vast array of tricks and nose for goal to be the driving force behind Flamengo’s title bid. His genius unmistaken, there is no doubt however that Menezes wants to use the experience that Ronaldinho has acquired to help and build the Brazilian team.

Menezes needs to fil up a vacuum. After the 2010 World Cup Menezes took the pressure seat with the massive task of constructing a Brazil ready to win the World Cup on home soil in 2014. But the transitional phase initiated by the dismissal of Dunga has not been easy. Menezes’ experimental approach came crashing down at the Copa America, where it was proved that his team is very much a work in progress. The new generation of Neymar, Ganso and Pato have been unable to fill the boots of their illustrious predecessors. 

In a squad, where only Julio Cesar and captain Lucio can be considered veterans, Ronaldinho has now been given the task of providing some much needed guidance to the new generation. Yet Menezes’ choice to recall Ronaldinho is an odd move. Succumbing to the increasing pressure in the wake of recent results Mano had to act, but Ronaldinho can hardly be considered part of the plans for the 2014 World Cup. In the long term Ronaldinho won’t solve Brazil’s structural problems. In a bold statement Menezes disagrees with this view: ‘His selection is not a temporary solution. It is important for Brazil to have experience. He is a world champion and alongside with the younger players we try to build the team. I do not exclude the possibility of selecting him for the 2014 World Cup. It is still far away and it is about Ronaldinho playing well. I do believe he has what it takes to play at the World Cup.’

In a sense, Menezes believes that the call up of Ronaldinho was only a matter of time. Repeating that the form of a player is the decisive criterion to select a player, Mano continued by stressing that Ronaldinho is valuable to the Selecao: ‘Ronaldinho contributes a lot to the game. He is a leader with great technical ability. You can rely on him to help the younger players, who are on their way to a permanent spot in the team. When he returned to Brazil from AC Milan he had to adapt again. I waited for the moment that Ronaldinho started to enjoy playing again.’

Ronaldinho himself seems pleased with his return to the elite of Brazilian football. With the spotlight firmly turned on him, the former Ballon D’Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year hasn’t been very talkative about his second call up by Menezes, but in a scarce comment to the Brazilian press, he expressed his sincere joy: ‘I am very happy to play for Brazil again. Every call up is different and emotional. My task now is to help the team with my experience.’

Whereas player and coach seem to think along the same line, the media and public scrutiny beg the question that this is not the right option to rebuild the Brazilian team. Brazil may have won the U-20 World Cup in Colombia, but another injection of youthful talent may at this stage given the circumstances be fatal for Menezes. Thus, with Kaka totally out of form, Menezes has little choice but to include Ronaldinho in his team. Menezes does confirm that Kaka is not completely out of the picture. Kaka wearing the yellow shirt, boasting five stars, shouldn’t be ruled out in the future: ‘You can’t compare Kaka with Ronaldinho at this moment. The former is not playing very well. You have to give him time. When he gets back to his best, I may include him. I am waiting.’

The overall equation leaves Menezes with a near impossible assignment, keeping in mind the upcoming 2012 Londen Olympics. The current situation Brazil find themselves in is not Menezes’ fault, but at the same time it, as a coach, is his fault. He knows that he can’t afford a slip up against Ghana, whatever support the CBF may be showing.  It is now up to Ronaldinho to answer Mano’s faith with a convincing performance.