According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a phenomenon is defined as “a remarkable person or thing”. In the footballing world, superlatives are all too often worn out and overused, diluting their meaning when used correctly. When it comes to Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, the Brazilian striker nicknamed “the phenomenon”, though, nothing is more fitting.

It says so much about a player who in many people’s view is the greatest centre forward the game has ever seen that there remains an element of tragedy when reflecting on his career. Successful stints at PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Internazionale and Real Madrid, scoring over 350 goals and winning countless titles, not to mention two World Cups and almost inspiring a third, still fall away to one rather unpleasant, undeserved and, frankly, misguiding stigma.

As his time at the top began to wind down, Ronaldo’s issues were well documented. His levels of motivation were in question as he approached his final years. Having grown up in a rather poor suburb of Rio de Janeiro, earning more than enough money and all the perks that come with that, as well as the success at such an early age, did perhaps go to his head. But when his weight, the most obvious signal of his downfall, began to increase, he was forever ribbed and mocked, dubbed “fat” Ronaldo. It seemed all earthshattering accolades from over 20 years at the very pinnacle had been forgotten.

To add to the lack of deserved adulation, the now 40-year-old, who retired after following tradition by ending his career in his homeland in 2011, cannot even lay claim to being unanimously recognised as the greatest footballer with his own name.

Just months after netting a sublime hattrick in the UEFA Champions League for Real Madrid at Old Trafford, knocking Manchester United out of the competition en route to the semi finals, defining his four-and-a-half years at the Santiago Bernabeu, Sir Alex Ferguson turned to an 18-year-old prodigy. Cristiano Ronaldo had already made history at Sporting Lisbon, making his way through their fabled youth system in just one year. It was a sign of things to come.

In many ways, the “Ronaldo” baton was passed. The striker, as opposed to the winger, named so in homage to his father’s favourite actor Ronald Reagan, was popular at Los Blancos, but looking back, his final “definitive” act at the top was netting twice in the 2002 World Cup final for Brazil against Germany.

Cristiano is the quintessential modern footballer, strong, fast, determined and unstoppable on the pitch. The Portugal international has a celebrity status and social media popularity to feed an ego necessary to succeed in this day and age. Statistically speaking, he dwarfs his namesake by sheer numbers. Even though Ronaldo, as previously stated, is a popular choice for the greatest “out and out” striker ever, he never scored 50 goals in a single season. During his spell at Real Madrid, Cristiano has done so in his last six seasons, all but one since leaving Manchester United in 2009.

But that’s just it, football isn’t played in the stats books, and Ronaldo pioneered the notion of superstardom enjoyed by Cristiano and so many others these days. When he joined Inter from Barcelona in 1997, the world had truly woken up to his brilliance. One season at the Camp Nou, scoring 34 goals and helping win three trophies, raised his stock. If a piece of individual brilliance encapsulated him, it was a goal at Compostela. With players hanging off him, Ronaldo combined brute strength and force with his remarkable technique to score after running a half-length of the pitch. His manager, Sir Bobby Robson, could only watch on in disbelief.

Everybody knows what Cristiano is all about. The personification of hard work and dedication, he too has to battle with unfair criticism. In that, and so many other ways, both Ronaldos are incredibly similar. Burning desire to make the best of any situation is as vital as natural skill and both had each in abundance.

The selfish streak that runs through Cristiano’s veins is the reason he is where he is today. Rather than constantly thinking about the Ballon d’Or or scoring more goals than arch-rival Lionel Messi, he is a leader for club and country, a driving force coming alive at the key moments. He has done that throughout his career, even now at 31, whereas Ronaldo slowed down in sight of his 28th birthday.

Again, though, it is too easy to say the striker gave up early. Injuries plagued his career, particularly with his knees. In 1998, at the World Cup he almost won, he was already the best player on the planet aged 21. By 2002, he was still playing in the shadow of a cruciate ligament tear, which kept him out for almost two years. The general consensus was he had lost his explosiveness and, aged just 25, he may be finished. Eight goals in Korea and Japan proved the world wrong. Ronaldo’s is a story of redemption, not failure.

To compare these two legends seems incredibly unfair and, like every other great, they deserve to be remembered for their own strengths. It is sad that both have sticks to be beaten with, but as the definition says, a phenomenon is a remarkable thing, and for talent, records and ability to bounce back from the edge, the Brazilian Ronaldo, “o fenomeno”, will always be the Ronaldo.

About the author- Harry De Cosemo

Harry is a European football writer specialising in English, Spanish and Italian football. He has worked for a number of top publications including MARCA in English, uMAXit football, FourFourTwo and The Press Association.

twitter: @harrydecosemo


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It’s been a summer of change like no other for Internazionale. There has been a change of ownership, with the Suning Group from China purchasing a controlling stake in the club. Then there was a somewhat unexpected change of manager, with Roberto Mancini parting ways with the Nerazzurri less than three weeks before the start of the season, and former Ajax coach Frank de Boer taking his place.

And in addition to the changes of leadership, there has also been a raft of new players arriving at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, not least because of the cash injection from the aforementioned take over.

The timing of the deals may not have been perfect – several players arrived after the Serie A season had already begun – and the squad still has a hole or two overall. But the improvements Inter have made via the transfer market this season stand to thrust the Milanese giants back up into the upper echelons of Italian football.

Inter have made as many as nine first team additions this summer, and here’s the pick of the bunch.

Éver Banega

Argentinian playmaker Éver Banega has been signed from Sevilla on a Bosman free transfer, in what could prove to be one of the finest pieces of business completed on the Continent this summer.

The 28-year-old was outstanding in Sevilla’s run to a third straight UEFA Europa League title, scoring nine goals and registering five assists in all competitions for the Andalusian club last season.

In the previous Serie A campaign, Inter were often lining up with an incredibly negative midfield trio of Felipe Melo, Gary Medel and Geoffrey Kondogbia; Banega has come in to add finesse and creativity in the middle of the park.

If de Boer can strike the right balance by covering the spaces in behind Benega, while providing pace and willing runners in forward areas, Inter will reap the benefits of having one of the most skilled and creative midfielders in Europe in their side.

Antonio Candreva

Antonio Candreva was earmarked as a transfer target early in the window by Inter, and the Nerazzurri managed to fend off rival interest from Chelsea to sign the Italian international winger for €25 million.

In his four seasons with Lazio, Candreva scored 41 goals from 150 Serie A appearances. And despite the Biancocelesti’s inability to find a consistent level of form last season, Candreva still managed to rack up 12 goals while also registering five assists.

The Rome-born player is 29 years old now, so Inter will be expecting him to come straight into the team and have an immediate impact – especially considering the money laid out for the former Udinese man.

But the 40-cap Azzurri winger will back himself to add a level of dynamism to the right side of Inter’s attack, and his impeccable delivery from wide areas will prove to be a valuable source of goal-scoring opportunities for captain and star striker Mauro Icardi.

Gabriel Barbosa

Brazilian prodigy Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa had a host of elite European clubs lining up to sign him from Santos this summer, but it was Inter who won the race for his signature.

Barbosa has been making waves in Brazil since his 2013 debut. The youngster earned the nickname “Gabigol” because of his coolness and finesse in front of goal, belying his tender years and relative inexperience.

An impressive tally of 56 goals from 153 appearances for Santos – all while still in his teens – makes it easy to see why so many top clubs wanted to sign the youngster.

And he didn’t come cheap: in order to beat the likes of Juventus, Atlético Madrid and Manchester United to sign the Brazilian, Inter had to pay a fee in the region of €30 million, with Barbosa joining the Serie A giants on his twentieth birthday.

Barbosa is unlikely to unseat Icardi as Inter’s primary marksman this season – not least because the former Barcelona and Sampdoria man has just signed a bumper new contract – but his ability to play on the right of the front three, as well as centrally, will see the four-cap Brazil international get plenty of game time.

Joao Mario

With a transfer fee in the region of €45 million, 23-year-old Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario became Inter’s second most expensive purchase ever – behind only the world record signing of Christian Vieri from Lazio in 1999.

Joao Mario was impressive for Portugal during their historic UEFA European Championship triumph in France this summer, acting as the main creative force in Fernando Santos’s midfield.

Despite only having three full seasons of senior football under his belt, Joao Mario has earned rave reviews for his performances with Sporting Clube de Portugal. Capable of playing wide on the right or centrally as a number 10, the 23-year-old is fast, athletic and a skilled dribbler with an eye for a defence-splitting pass.

With the hefty price tag, Inter fans will be expecting big things from Joao Mario, and if the Porto-born midfielder can hit the ground running in Milan, he’ll be a major factor in the Nerazzurri’s push for Champions League qualification.

With the acquisitions they have made, Frank de Boer has somewhat of a selection dilemma on his hands, as several top quality players will not make his starting eleven.

But if he sticks with the 4-3-3 utilised in the club’s recent 1-1 draw with Palermo (although a 4-2-3-1 could perhaps better accommodate Joao Mario), Inter fans can expect to see a line-up of Samir Handanovic; Danilo D’Ambrosio, Jeison Murillo, Miranda, Davide Santon; Éver Banega, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Joao Mario; Antonio Candreva, Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic – a side capable of qualifying for the Champions League, and maybe even contesting lo Scudetto.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the ge of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications.

Twitter:  @RyanBaldiEFB




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The 31-year-old Serbia captain is entering the final six months of his contract, and with the form he is currently in, the new offer is unlikely to follow.

Contrasting opinions exist over the Chelsea’s distinctive transfer policy.

The Blues have opted not to discuss new contracts with players over 30 years of age, at least until February of the final year in their deals. What is more, the most experienced players in the squad can mainly hope for nothing more than one-year offer with an option for a further one if additional requirements have been met.

Branislav Ivanovic has been living in London and playing for Blues since 2008, and being a proper family man Bane, as he is called in Serbia, is not the kind of a person who is keen on changing his surroundings that often. Hence, all the Inter Milan rumours that have been circulating recently should be taken with a grain of salt.

The Serbian defender has become an established first-team member, gave his best for Chelsea through thick and thin, proving his worth and maintaining his place under seven different managers.

It took him some adapting to do under Avram Grant, since he arrived with a lack of fitness due to the fact that the Russian Premier League season ended a couple of months before his signing. However, once he got his feet back on the ground, Ivanovic was not to be removed from the starting berth.

Physically strong and dominant, the Chelsea vice-captain is characterized by his great areal ability. In addition, Ivanovic can be very useful as an extra presence for defending and attacking set pieces. Even though his natural position is centre back, Branislav Ivanovic has been mostly deployed as the right back, but his quick pace has made him a real threat in the attack as well.

During Chelsea’s triumphant run last season, Branislav Ivanovic had been one of the most prominent and outstanding performers throughout the campaign. Jose Mourinho praised his spirit on numerous occasions, publicly calling for the Chelsea management to wrap up the new contract for the Serbian defender.

His stats were impressive.

With the total of 38 league appearances and 4 goals on his tally in the entire season 2014/15, Ivanovic had created total of 36 chances for his teammates, had an average pass accuracy of 81%. Ivanovic won 56% of his duels and even had the 60% success rate with his tackles.

If we are to break down his numbers even further, Ivanovic’s stats for the first 12 games of the last season, the same number of games that have been played so far in the new campaign, are even more imposing.

Successful tackle rate of 69%, 62% of duels won and an average pass accuracy of 82% speak volumes of Ivanovic’s influence.

He bled for the team, literally in some occasions, and was publicly applauded for his relentless fighting spirit. And then, everything changed overnight, as Branislav Ivanovic became a shadow of his former self.

His numbers suffered a major dip and today they illustrate the size of his demise.

With 12 games gone, and eight of those which Branislav played before his injury, he had disappointing 38% successful tackles, 0% shot accuracy and 48% of duels won.

What numbers cannot show is that Chelsea vice-captain looks lost on the field. Without the appropriate support from the rest of the team and the fear factor gone, rivals are not afraid to take him on any more and, what is worse, he is unable to stop them.

Lack of pace, lack of speed and poor positioning have made him a laughing stock this season.

Far from steady and reliable, the 31-year-old defender has been dealt with a dramatic turn in form and was even forced to face the wrath of many who blamed him for the club’s poor results this season. Fans called for Jose Mourinho to drop Ivanovic and their wishes were granted when the Serbian captain picked up a hamstring injury while on international duty.

Ivanovic however did not turn out to be the main culprit for Chelsea’s disastrous form this term as it was witnessed in his absence. So, did Ivanovic deserve the heavy barrage of criticism?

Modern-day football has lost its charm in a certain way. Current financial tides have raised the bar drastically, you are expected to give all you’ve got, to give it right now and to keep giving it all the time. Chelsea’s ruthless transfer policy is there to prove it.

Failure is not an option, rough patches never forgiven – Branislav Ivanovic has become a fans’ scapegoat.

A quick line from the personal perspective I hope will give a different perspective to the story. The author of this article, yours truly, had the chance and honour of meeting Branislav Ivanovic on one occasion. A quick chat and a couple of minutes spent with the Serbia captain made me realize that he was the player of a different kind.

Not your regular professional football player most of the time unaware of the world surrounding him, Bane is a level-headed, emotional guy.

And the heavy criticism did play its part on his poor form this season. However, the above presented numbers do not reveal the real truth behind Ivanovic’s game – effort. That is one thing not a single Chelsea fan can use against him, as effort and dedication to the team’s cause are Ivanovic’s main traits, the strengths that have made him the player he is today.

Or was until recently.

In any case, his time has not passed. That’s one thing I am sure of.

About the author – Miloš Markovic

Sports journalist from Serbia, Editor in Cheif at and contributor to FutbolgradLive. Worked with Inforstrada and FIFA covering Serbia’s international games during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

twitter: @milosemarkovicu


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