I debated how to phrase the headline – as a definitive statement on what he should do or as a question. While it looks like a question, it is actually a rhetorical statement. The answer is so obvious that it doesn’t make any sense for me to drag out a pros and cons before coming down on one side. RONALDO – DON’T LISTEN TO YOUR MAMA: STAY WITH MANCHESTER UNITED. She’s right about Real Madrid being a dream – it’s a bad dream otherwise called a nightmare. He looks way better in red, doesn’t he?!
Why you should stay, you ask. Let me expound – in numbered, bulleted fashion no less.
- You are the king at United. This is your team, no matter the love for Rooney or Scholes or Giggs or Rio. Your team. At Real, Raul is king. And after him, it will be Casillas – and he’s only 27 and a goalie, so he will be around a long time. Oh, and he also just captained Spain to their first title in 44 years.
- You can be a United legend. While you didn’t come up the ranks at United like Scholes or Giggs, you came here at 18. That’s almost the same thing. To be a true legend at the club, if you join them early and stay for a long time, you are a legend. It will not be the same if you join Real Madrid. Are Zidane or Figo or Roberto Carlos or any of the other galacticos a legend? Yes, you are younger than they were, but if you think you will play at Real for 10 years, you are crazy. You won’t last long enough there. Why, you ask? Next point…
- You are the flavor of the election. Today, Calderon wants you to win his election. Once you are in the team, don’t you think the next guy contesting election is going to want his own galactico – maybe Bojan Krkic or the next freakishly talented Brazilian? At United, you will always be on a pedestal, much as Giggs and Scholes still are. Real is notoriously unstable because of the shenanigans that go on around the elections (Barca too). That’s why they keep changing coaches as well. Who is going to be your coach once Schuster doesn’t win the Champions League next season?
- You play on the best team in England and in Europe. It is a young team too. Other than Arsenal, there is no other young, world class team like it in the world. And Arsenal hasn’t won squat in four years. This team is the best team in the best league in the world. So, you are the player of the year in the best team in the world (and United will prove that by winning the World Club Cup later this year – BTW, you won’t play in that or the European Super Cup this year if you leave United) in the best league in the world – and a team that is poised to challenge (if not dominate) for a few years to come. And you want to trade that for a dream? Talk to Kobe for some pointers, son.
- Let’s talk about the platform a bit. First, the club. At United, Rooney and Tevez and the rest of the guys will do the tracking back that you don’t always have to do. You take the penalties and free kicks. No egos from guys like Rooney or Tevez or Rio or whoever. You really think that happens at Real? From players like Raul and Guti and Ruud and Robben? Forget what they say now. Wait till you are there. Ruud is going to take penalty kicks (especially after your recent two high profile misses, it is not a foregone conclusion that you get to push him aside for those) and Wesley Sneijder is going to take a fair number of free kicks. Then, the same thing will happen to you that happened to Torres. Defenders will not let you beat them with your pace as they won’t play up as much, won’t give you as much space and the midfield will be more compact as well so it is going to be harder for you to do your usual damage. The leagues are just different. The slower pace of La Liga is going to be to your disadvantage. Also, at United, you interchange with total freedom. Rooney, Tevez and whoever is playing attacking mid or opposite wing (Giggs or Nani) move around freely and let you move around freely. You come inside, switch wings, go crossfield, drop back, whatever. At Real, you will play like you do at Portugal. Except Real have players with even more ego and reputation. You will play more on the wing and have to serve balls to Ruud and Raul. Your goals will drop and so will your reputation. Trust me – we got a precursor at Euro 2008.
- The fans love you at United. Yes, they will love you at Real as long as you are doing well. Can you imagine white hankies waving at United? United fans embraced you after World Cup 2006 even though you were mischievous in your contribution to getting Rooney and England booted. The country even forgave you – somehow I don’t see that happening with a Portugese man in Spain.
- The blame will be on you if Real don’t win the Champions League within the next two years.
- Messi plays in La Liga. You don’t want to play in the same league as him since he will now be the showpiece at Barca and will come out of it as the player of the year in La Liga. Stop with the “I am a competitor; that’s a challenge I would relish” line. I am not saying he is better than you – just that he will come off better given his team situation relative to yours.
- Quieroz is at United and will probably be the next coach of United.
- Spain has just won Euro 2008. Casillas, Xavi, Cesc and Torres are going to be ahead of you in Spanish minds for a while – and God help you if they win the World Cup too. It’s more likely they win than England.
- You signed a contract. You are just one year in. I bet you United gives you more money, but at the level you are, does some more money mean more than winning and being the best?
- Karma is a mother. Loyalty seems to be an ugly word and yes, United and Fergie have thrown players out (see Becks and Ruud) after they were loyal to him and the club. However, this is ridiculous. The man protected you. The club and the fans embraced you. And you repay them like this?
- You are 23 years old. In two or three years you will enter your prime. Most United fans will not begrudge you your desire to move if you do so at that point. It would also be perfect reasoning as you can say it is contemporaneous with Fergie leaving. IF, that is, you decide it makes sense to move then. It makes no sense to do so now. Can you imagine how much of a bigger deal you would get if you solidified your United fan base and then moved after you had won a couple of World Player of the Year awards. It would be a much bigger move than doing so now.
- You will be joining a league where the rest of the teams have no real stars. Even Barca would have lost Ronaldinho, Deco, Eto’o and Gio Dos Santos. Contrast that with all the good players coming to the Premier League at Spurs, Everton, Portsmouth, Liverpool and Arsenal.
To be fair, let’s talk about some reasons to go:
The weather is better. Your girlfriend is Spanish. Playing for Los Blancos is a bit mythical. Fergie’s going to quit soon. It’s not going to be easy to top, let alone match, this season – on a personal and team level. The competition in England for the Premier League is going to be even more fierce. You will probably make more money from the image rights deal in Spain. You probably speak Spanish better than English. It’s your dream. Your mama wants you to go there.
The only thing that I have left to say is – if it’s your dream that’s great. Who says you have to wake up today to realize it – “wait a couple of years and then figure out if you want to live the dream or simply dream the dream while living the life you already have” CH12, July 1, 2008…
CH12, this is the Germans we are talking about. Look at the history, son. OK, so I am going to put in my comments in bullet fashion.
Portugal wins. Germany wins.
- Cristiano Ronaldo. Like he isn’t already motivated, Lehmann fires him up even more by saying that he knows his weakness since Arsenal has had great success against him over the last few years. I guess they must know something. Actually, packing the midfield and having Portugal not get him the ball enough was an issue. Also, Nuno Gomes is past the sell by date. Maybe Almeida or Postiga should have come on earlier.
- Portugal has pace on the wings – the German midfield and back four are just too slow. They couldn’t control Korkmaz properly. How exactly are they going to keep up with Simao, Ronaldo, Moutinho along with Nani and Quaresma off the bench? Short answer, they did. A lot has to do with going 2 up and then being able to stick with five in midfield to deal with the wing pressure.
- Germany has lacked drive in the middle of the park. IF Ballack plays well and IF Schweinsteiger shows the drive he was starting to display before his red card against Croatia, then Germany may have a chance – don’t forget that Bastian had a hat trick against Portugal in the 3rd place match at World Cup 2006. But I think the extra time that Deco should get against the German midfield – especially if Frings is out – is going to kill Germany. Ballack did play well. Schweinsteiger DID show the drive and the five man midfield didn’t give Portugal enough time or space.
- Pepe and Carvalho are good in the air. Bet Gomez doesn’t start. So it’s going to be tougher for Klose to win aerial battles. Germany’s chance is going to come from one twos between Podolski and Klose. Also, whoever is coming down the right wing needs to put pressure on Ferreira – he’s the weak link. Too bad Lahm plays on the left. Maybe Loew should switch him to right back to get the matchup. I don’t know what to say when Portugal gives up two goals from headers off free kicks. Carvalho was to blame for switching off Ballack for the third goal (Ricardo too – what kind of weak attempt was that?) and Ronaldo was hanging out for Klose’s goal. Ferreira was the weak link – he was beaten on Schweinsteiger’s near post run for the first goal and unfairly got victimized by Ballack for the third goal. Shocking to me was how easily Podolski held off, and actually accelerated past, Bosingwa and Pepe on the left wing before crossing for the first goal. Carvalho was jogging back and marking grass while Ferreira let Schweinsteiger come all the way across the box and get in front of him for the finish.
- Germany hasn’t played well since the first half against Poland. Nothing to say.
- Portugal is well rested with their starters having had a week off between games. Germany had to labor through 90 minutes a few days ago against Austria and Podolski is supposedly banged up. Frings did sit out but the extra man in midfield helped. And Bastian was off for a week as well…!
However, this is the Germans, so don’t ever count them out. Especially if Portugal doesn’t get Ronaldo the ball on the wing enough. Like I said…
Pre-game prediction: Portugal 2 Germany 1
Result: Portugal 2 Germany 3
Scorers: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Michael Ballack (Germany) Nuno Gomes, Helder Postiga (Portugal)
Man of the match will be Deco… Man of the match was Schweinsteiger with a goal, two assists and tons of energy.
Ronaldo – this is what happens when you start thinking about leaving Man U for Real Madrid. I think it’s 50/50 that he goes – it will come down to whether or not Man U gives him his raise.
Hopefully, CH12 is better in the Croatia v Turkey game. Croatia is my horse in that race…
Portugal wins. No prose. Going with the bullets.
- Cristiano Ronaldo. Like he isn’t already motivated, Lehmann fires him up even more by saying that he knows his weakness since Arsenal has had great success against him over the last few years.
- Portugal has pace on the wings – the German midfield and back four are just too slow. They couldn’t control Korkmaz properly. How exactly are they going to keep up with Simao, Ronaldo, Moutinho along with Nani and Quaresma off the bench?
- Germany has lacked drive in the middle of the park. IF Ballack plays well and IF Schweinsteiger shows the drive he was starting to display before his red card against Croatia, then Germany may have a chance – don’t forget that Bastian had a hat trick against Portugal in the 3rd place match at World Cup 2006. But I think the extra time that Deco should get against the German midfield – especially if Frings is out – is going to kill Germany.
- Pepe and Carvalho are good in the air. Bet Gomez doesn’t start. So it’s going to be tougher for Klose to win aerial battles. Germany’s chance is going to come from one twos between Podolski and Klose. Also, whoever is coming down the right wing needs to put pressure on Ferreira – he’s the weak link. Too bad Lahm plays on the left. Maybe Loew should switch him to right back to get the matchup.
- Germany hasn’t played well since the first half against Poland.
- Portugal is well rested with their starters having had a week off between games. Germany had to labor through 90 minutes a few days ago against Austria and Podolski is supposedly banged up.
However, this is the Germans, so don’t ever count them out. Especially if Portugal doesn’t get Ronaldo the ball on the wing enough.
Pre-game prediction: Portugal 2 Germany 1
Man of the match will be Deco…
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
Defense: Vedran Corluka, Andre Ooijer, Olof Mellberg, Razvan Rat
Midfield: Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Luka Modric, Deco
Strikers: Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo
Coach: Marco Van Basten
Portugal won. Scolari still hasn’t told his guys how to play with Ronaldo – he still had to start coming deep and floating to the middle to get the ball. Deco had a better game with a goal and a brilliantly threaded assist (Moutinho regressed) and Ronaldo did finally score. It was a brilliant strike – there were five players in and around him when he struck in through the legs of the defender. This was not going to be a walkover and it wasn’t. Pepe and Carvalho played average and Bosingwa and Ferreira had subpar games. The Czechs did play better – Baros up front instead of Koller gave Portugal fits in the first half. Sionko did eat Ferreira’s lunch a few times, including on the move that lead to the corner from which he scored and on another move early in the second half when his cut back pass flashed across the goal. Too bad they didn’t go to him on the right wing more often.
Portugal’s player of the match was easily Ronaldo with the goal and assist on Ricardo Quaresma’s injury time open net goal. He also had a few blistering shots that Cech blocked. Final rant to Big Phil – stop playing Simao. He hasn’t done much in the last two games and you have Nani or Quaresma as a direct, quicker and better wing replacement. On top of that, the man takes the short free kicks away from Ronaldo. Enough already. This isn’t Benfica or Atletico Madrid. Also, Phil, (not a rant so it’s okay) you might want to start Almeida as Nuno Gomes is not doing enough up front.
Ronaldo – isn’t it much easier when you have Rooney, Tevez, Scholes and Giggs playing up front with you with their pace, movement, skill and the defensive attention they take off of you? Not as easy now is it – and it will get harder against the Germans? Lucky for you it’s going to be in the semi. Portgual looking good so far to win the tournament as predicted.
Sionko was the player of the game for the Czechs. Pity he couldn’t get his second header to stay down and couldn’t get his head on Ujfalusi’s header across the goal from the late corner.
Pre-game prediction: Portugal 2 Czech 1
Result: Portugal 3 Czech 1
Scorers: Deco, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal) Libor Sionko (Czech)
CH12 is off to a good start for the day with the CR7 scores call and the Sionko uber Ferreira call (sorry, I don’t have the Czech equivalent of uber – so you will probably see it tomorrow as well)
Portugal wins. Scolari will finally tell his guys how to play with Ronaldo – get him the ball as often as you can and then move around and leave him in space as much as you can. Deco and Moutinho will have better games and Ronaldo will finally score. However, it IS big Petr Cech in goal and bigger Jan Koller at the other end, so this is not going to be a walkover. Pepe and Carvalho are going to have to get on their pogo sticks. The Czechs will play better, but Portugal will put a lot more pressure on them than the Swiss (and the Swiss put a lot on them as it is). The Czechs need to start Baros or Sverkos alongside Koller. Also, I think a key mismatch that the Czechs can capitalize on is on the right wing. Paulo Ferreira is overrated and is playing out of position at left back – Sionko needs to eat his lunch and get those crosses in to Koller. This is going to be the best game in group A.
I hope the Swiss win against the Turks. My gut says that Nihat and Tuncay have better games and the Turks will score. Will Switzerland be able to respond with two goals without Frei? I don’t think so, but I think their will gets them a goal – so this is a scoring draw.
Portugal 2 Czech Republic 1
Switzerland 1 Turkey 1
Second round of group play, here we come. Now there is no room for error….
People – let me know if you are digging CH12 (way better than CR7 or CP3, no?) …
Form held. Pepe finally had one count and Nuno Gomes tested the woodwork twice though the Turks had a couple of chances to equalize before Meireles put away Moutinho’s sweet turn and layoff. Portugal looked better in the second half though the defense looked a bit shaky at the end. I really like how Moutinho seems to be coming on. If Deco doesn’t get to top gear, Moutinho looks like he can pick up the slack. He looked very good in the box coming through on a late run and controlling and almost putting one away before blazing one over from outside the box. His last turn and layoff for the goal was brilliant. He might be one of the stars of the tournament if Portugal goes late into the tournament.
Pre-game prediction: Portugal 2 Turkey 1
Results: Portugal 2 Turkey 0
Scorers: Pepe, Meireles (Portugal)
Players of the game: Ronaldo for Portugal. While Nihat and Kazim had a few moments, the big center back, Servet Cetin was my pick.
1 and 1 for the day, getting ready for Group B…