Tag Archives: diego maradona

Ronaldo “The Slave” keeping busy in L.A.

Cristiano Ronaldo conducts business at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles, CA.

LOS ANGELES — When Cristiano Ronaldo publicly referred to himself as a “slave” last week, it was no surprise the remark made the headlines. The man could take a bite from a tuna salad sandwich and it would no doubt appear on Sky Sports as “Breaking News”. As I write, the young Portuguese star is caught in a battle for his footballing services, a tug-of-war match between his current club, Manchester United, and their European rivals Real Madrid. The Spanish champions have reportedly offered Ronaldo a contract worth up to £10 million a season, but United’s chief executive David Gill remains adamant the player will not be heading to the Bernabeu anytime soon. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson travelled to Portugal last week to convince the unsettled winger to see out his contract at Old Trafford, and this week suggested moving to Madrid would be “the worst thing for Ronaldo’s career.”

Asked this week to comment, Ronaldo coyly suggested money would not be a factor in his decision, casually stating, “I’ve always been hounded.” But he has made no secret of his ambitions to play for Real next season, causing some United fans to turn against him. They’re right to question his loyalties, judging his record with women. This guy changes girlfriends like most men change underwear.

Ronaldo and Nerieda canoodle in Sardinia following Portugal’s early exit from Euro 2008.

Following Portugal’s quarter-final defeat to Germany at Euro 2008, Ronaldo escaped to the Italian island of Sardinia with Mallorcan girlfriend Nereida Gallardo. The two were photographed frolicking on the beach, and Nereida even hinted to her friends that marriage was just around the corner, but sadly found herself promptly dumped at the end of the trip.

Two weeks ago in Holland, Ronaldo underwent surgery on his right ankle which will keep him out of action until October — plenty of time for him to mull things over and weigh up his tricky career options. Ronaldo has been recovering from his operation in California, where after a week in Los Angeles the 23 year-old’s romantic conquests already total four. Three of these were girls he picked up at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a fourth is Letizia Filippi, a 30 year-old serial footballer-dater who finished third in the Miss Italia contest in 1994. The two met on Fabio Cannavaro’s yacht in Capri, where Ronaldo also vacationed with Nereida. Since their break-up Ronaldo has apparently ignored all Nereida’s pleas for his return, refusing to answer phone calls from his heartbroken ex.

The predator Ronaldo — here in his natural poolside habitat, eyes up his next victims.

This kind of behaviour is nothing new amongst the spoilt, the immature, the overpaid or the unintelligent. Sadly for Ronaldo, he happens to fall into all four of these categories, as his “slave” remark confirms. His thoughtless stupidity and selfish arrogance have several times very nearly cost his side on the pitch (he missed consecutive penalties in the Champions League semi-final and final which luckily for him did not prove fatal). The same unenviable traits are bound to cause turbulence off the pitch as well. “I don’t know about the future, only God knows it,” Ronaldo claimed this week, perhaps attempting to elicit a tinge of Diego Maradona’s uncanny knack for pompous statements. But when Maradona spouted such comments you kind of half went along with it, such was his talent for audacity. With Ronaldo it comes off as pure arrogance, and the only thing he currently shares with Diego is a guarantee that it will all end in tears.

Ronaldo hobbles on crutches outside popular celebrity
lounge Coco de Ville, West Hollywood, CA.

Nike disappoints purist fans of Arsenal and Barça, but the players seem happy

William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott model
the new Arsenal home shirt in an online Nike ad.

It’s that time of year again. The season is over, players are on the beach, transfer sagas are drawn out, and the sports newspapers are filled with pages of talk, speculation, rumour and very little football. It’s the one moment in the calendar where people like me (and if you’re reading this probably you also) can devote a little time to something other than football. But any true fan knows there is always something to keep his interest alive during the close season. In my case, it’s the excitement and anticipation which can only be caused by the unveiling of the big clubs’ new kits. There is always that hope that every shirt will revert to a classic design, but sadly in reality only rarely do kits adhere closely to those that grace the hallowed turfs of my football fantasies.

Arsenal recently unveiled their new 2008-09 home strip, sparking a fresh controversy amongst some of the North London club’s most purist supporters. In an unexpected break with tradition, manufacturers Nike have ditched Arsenal’s famous white sleeves — which the Gunners have worn since former manager Herbert Chapman introduced the design in the 1930s — instead opting for a somewhat nondescript red shirt with a white sleeve stripe. Ardent Gunner fans say the new look removes all of Arsenal’s visual individuality, making them look like half the other teams in the world. Arsenal will wear the shirt for home games until 2010.

Thierry Henry celebrates a goal during Arsenal’s last ever game at Highbury against Wigan Athletic. The Gunners wore a “redcurrant” home strip for the entire 2005-06 season.

The only previous drastic modification to Arsenal’s home strip came in the 2005-06 season, when a shirt based on a 1913 design was worn to commemorate the Gunners’ last season at Highbury. The club officially described the kit’s colour as “redcurrant”, with reference to the darker strip Arsenal wore in its early years. I actually liked this shirt — even if it had nothing to do with any Arsenal team I’d seen before or since.

For the 2006-07 season, the first at their new stadium, Arsenal reverted to a classic traditional strip, as worn here by Dutch forward Dennis Bergkamp.

One player who is not concerned about these alterations is Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who has admitted turning down offers from Real Madrid and Barcelona to stay at the Emirates Stadium. “I get excited about a new kit and really like trying on new shirts,” says the newly-crowned European champion. “It makes you start looking forward to the new season.” It may be worth mentioning that Nike is one of Fabregas’ personal sponsors. Arsenal teammate Theo Walcott is also unconcerned: “It’s a great design,” says the 19 year-old. “It feels good on, it’s really comfortable, and I’m looking forward to wearing it next season.”

Nike posters feature Bojan Krkic and Carles Puyol in the latest
Barça home and away styles for 2008-09.

I wonder what the Catalan Fabregas would make of Barcelona’s new strip. The La Liga giants are also kitted out by Nike, and this year’s home shirts have also upset their fiercely traditionalist contingent. After almost a century of stripes, for the 2008-09 season Barça’s famous blaugrana will be worn as halves. This is not the club’s first recent alteration to their classic look: Barcelona memorably reverted to red-and-blue halves with navy sleeves and shorts for their centenary season in 1999 — a shirt that proved extremely popular with fans around the world. Sadly, this season’s new shirts have none of the centenary kit’s unique details, instead they look like a quickly knocked off alternative to last season’s strip, and make the mighty Barça look a lot like Genoa or Cagliari.

Rivaldo and Luis Figo during the 1999 centenary season, the last time Barcelona wore halves; Ronaldinho sports Barça’s Champions League-winning strip: note the narrower stripes and red shorts.

Barcelona have worn their usual wide stripes in the last two seasons — a welcome return following the narrow stripes and red shorts combination of 2005-06. For anyone with a sense of the club’s kit tradition this strip was quite a departure, although it didn’t affect the side: Barcelona won the Champions League that year, beating Arsenal in the final. In 2007 Barcelona — the last major team in Europe never to wear a sponsor — secured a deal with the charity organization Unicef, whose logo now appears on the front of their shirts. At least Barcelona will look the part away from the Nou Camp: recent dalliances with orange and turquoise have given way to a new second strip based on the classic yellow shirts of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Diego Maradona leads out Barcelona in yellow at Old Trafford, March 1984; Barça coach Terry “El Tel” Venables (far right) presents new signing Steve Archibald (in classic blaugrana strip) to the Nou Camp, August 1984.