Last time on BKAF, we took a look at Kaka and thus delved the world of AC Milan, my adopted team. My year abroad saw me frequent the San Siro on numerous occasions, most notably for their upset of Manchester United en route to a European title.
How long ago that success now seems: not only were the Rossoneri eliminated in the First Knockout Round of the Champions League by Arsenal, but the team finished a lowly fifth in Serie A and thus lost its place to compete for next year’s European Cup (instead they will try for the inferior UEFA Cup).
So, why mention the club again if they are in such disarray? The answer lies in a certain attacking midfielder from Porto Alegre, Brazil: the esteemed Ronaldinho. Thanks to the deep pockets of billionaire Silvio Berlusconi, the former FIFA World Player of the Year will be joining Milan this fall (following his transfer from Barcelona for $34 million CDN).
It is not every day that one’s favorite club acquires a player with other-worldly touch and 126 career club goals, so indulge me in profiling Milan’s latest savior via comparison to a star back from that other football…LaDainian Tomlinson.
Offensively Offensive: We are all familiar with Tomlinson’s considerable aptitude for setting scoring records: in 2007, LT set all-time single season records by scoring 31 touchdowns, 186 points, and having eight multi-touchdown games. He set a new standard by once scoring in 18 consecutive games, and his 115 career TDs place him third all-time and climbing.
Tomlinson is clearly the best running back in football and the most impressive offensive force at his position since Marshall Faulk. Though LT’s resume is striking, Ronaldinho is no offensive slouch either. Although he is not principally a striker and therefore not a primary goal scorer, Ronaldinho’s outstanding speed and technical ability enable him to score in abundance.
He won the FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Boot in 2000, the Ballon d’Or in 2005, and overall had 94 goals in his 207 games with Barca. He has also scored an impressive 32 goals in his 82 caps for Brazil.
(Not Quiet) The Face of the Game: Tomlinson is a five-time Pro Bowler, a former MVP, and a former NFL Man of the Year. By any measure, he is reached an echelon of stardom that puts his among pro sports biggest names. Yet he has clearly not achieved the level of fame that either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady has as the unofficial “Face of the NFL.”
The reason he hasn’t attained that magnitude of acclaim is clear: he is not a quarterback. Ronaldinho meanwhile is an international superstar, but even as a two-time World Player of the Year he has never stood alone as the principle figure in the sport. Be it Beckham, Zidane, Henry, Cannavaro, or Totti, there is an excess of great talents and celebrated performers in the beautiful game that compete for consideration as the sport’s biggest draw.
What’s in a Name? While they may not stand out in the way Crosby or LeBron do as the clear-cut upholder of their sport, both players have household names known the world over. What neither has, though, is an original name.
LaDainian’s nickname of “LT” would already win an award for unoriginality, and that is before considering that he stole it outright from the one-and-only true “LT,” Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor. As a general rule, one should not misappropriate a nickname from a legend in the very same sport.
For his part, Ronaldinho’s name means “little Ronaldo,” and he is better known in Brazil as Ronaldinho Gaúcho so as to distinguish him from all-time great Ronaldo, who was already called “Ronaldinho” in Brazil. Ronaldo eventually went only by his first name and thereby allowed Ronaldinho to drop the “Gaúcho.” It is in situations like these that one might pine for a last name.
Rare Air: The folks from Beaverton, Oregon have their guardianship over each of these superstars. Nike has showed us that LT’s fast is faster, his quick is quicker, and his better is better (whatever the hell that means).
List of demands aside, he has replaced Mr. Bad News Kennel as the posterboy for the brand’s football division. Ronaldinho, too, is the star of Nike campaigns, both in North America and abroad. Most recently the company used home footage of him playing as a youth in their Joga Bonito campaign. Oh, and there was this, too.
Turn the Page: Tomlinson is the only player to ever have rushed for over 1,200 yards and have 50 receptions in every year of his career. While he had another remarkable regular-season with San Diego last year, he ran for just 42 yards on 21 carries in his first playoff game, then bruised his left knee and missed the second half in a divisional round win over the Colts, and finally had just two carries and 5 yards in the AFC title game.
This, combined with his closing in on the age of 30 (the Age of Death for running backs) have many questioning if LT will be the same this season. For what its worth, he did not participate in the Chargers’ offseason program though he is expected to be ready for the regular season. Ronaldinho is at an even bigger career-crossroads. He can be seen as coming to Milan on the cheap, considering just last summer Barca declined an offer of $90 million for the skillful Brazilian.
His star has certainly dwindled since his time as the world’s best player, in part due to injury, but also as a result of questionable desire. His signing with AC Milan is an illustration of how quickly his career turned south. The Barca locker room became bitterly divided when Barça striker Samuel Eto’o suggested Ronaldinho’s effort is lacking, and he played in fewer than half the team’s games. He, and the AC Milan brain-trust, are hoping he can rediscover his game in Serie A.