Pete Donaldson On: Ronaldo

Renegades with a flair for drama and absurdism. Ruined knees. Likely to turn up to your party in an baffling suit.

All descriptors that can be applied in equal measure to the Football Ramble’s very own Peter D. Donaldson and the subject of this exclusive extract from our first book, out on 20th October.

Perhaps it takes a genius to understand genius. Maybe the reverse is true and the ‘takes one to know one’ principle can be applied to people who have responsibilities, know they have responsibilities and yet, somehow, still end up disappearing on the eve of a big day, only to reappear just in time with an armful of implausible excuses.

We neither know nor care when it’s this much fun. As long as someone else is picking up the legal bills.

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A goal-scoring paragon, Ronaldo’s masterpiece — his Scream wrapped in a Sistine Chapel wrapped in a Last Supper wrapped in a Mona Lisa — must surely be the goal scored on 11 October 1996 against the then La Liga team SD Compostela. And on that day he truly turned that team into compost.

Picking up the ball inside his own half, the sort of thing you’d see only players with true hunger do back then, he manages to evade and power through a shirt pull and an untidy foot down the back of the shin, outpace another two defenders with sheer unabashed acceleration and break into the eighteen-yard box, cutting inside, shifting his weight and giving himself room to shoot around the penalty spot.

Analysing the footage, one defender — Javier Bellido, a man who was once known as ‘the wall of San Lazaro’ — appears to attempt to put a foot in but, in all honesty, what actually happens is he gives off the air of a man who’s only contribution to proceedings is a conceiving of a notion of a thought that in some alternate universe a chap who looks like Javier Bellido perhaps half-blocks that whip crack shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal. In reality he just stands there, arms out and mouth open, like any of us would have.

Ten seconds, and the world’s greatest striker. All it took. The apogee of pace, grace and power. Bobby Robson in the dugout shaking his head.

‘Pelé Returns’ said the newspaper Diario AS. Nike bought up the rights to show that historic goal in their celebrated ‘Imagine you asked God to be the best player in the world, and he listened to you’ advert. His opposition that day who also featured in that clip — William, Bellido, Passi, Pessoa, Perez, Juncal and Chiba — filed a lawsuit to try to gain some financial recompense for the use of their images. The court found against the players (the goalkeeper Fernando Peralta being notable by his absence in the suit — he probably didn’t want reminding), arguing that the images of the players were ‘purely instrumental and accessory’, which does sum up that goal better than any flowery think-piece on the matter. A direct quote from the Supreme Court, in Plaza de la Villa de Paris (in Madrid): ‘The reproduction of the images in no way affects their personal or professional dignity.’

Like fuck it didn’t. Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima can now be seen at a casino near you.

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