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Ronaldinho’s goal against Chelsea is an overrated toe poke

You think you know Ronaldinho’s strike against Chelsea in 2005.

Barcelona’s sponsorless gold third strip. That v-neck Chelsea kit you can only associate with Claude Makelele. The silence of Stamford Bridge as the Umbro ball tumbled from Ronaldinho’s black Nike boot to the back of Petr Cech’s net.

In your head, as soon as I mention the goal, joyous images come to mind. A wondergoal. Golazo. One for the ages. But, in my humble opinion, you’re wrong. Ronaldinho’s toe poke against Chelsea is one of the most overrated goals in the history of the Champions League.

How well do you actually remember the goal? Watch it again. Soak it up. Analyse every minute detail, as I shall do now.

It starts with a speculative punt by Oleguer. Head down, foot through the ball, not a teammate in mind as he hacks the ball up the pitch. How can any work of art start with an Oleguer hoof?

Had John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, arguably Europe’s premier centre-back pairing at the time, not transformed into Titus Bramble and Nikos Dabizas, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

The ball is sailing harmlessly onto Terry’s forehead- a forehead you can set your watch by- until Carvalho inexplicably slides to the left and spooks his centre-back partner. Suddenly Chelsea are scrambling, with Frank Lampard and Makelele caught too high up the pitch.

Ronaldinho throws a reckless leg out, which should have been enough to put anyone off. But, in Andres Iniesta, Barcelona had a player whose touch turned atheists into believers. Iniesta kills the bouncing ball in two touches and returns it, nestling in a box of feathers, to his Brazilian counterpart.

Get your toes out for the lads

Times Newspapers Ltd
2
Get your toes out for the lads

As Ronaldinho opens up to face Cech’s goal, positioned perfectly in the middle of the D, he has Carvalho for company and Lampard closing in fast from behind. Everyone else has been distracted by Iniesta’s dart in behind, with Terry completely taking himself out of the game in a bid to make up for his wayward header, completing arguably the worst three seconds of defending of his career.

Despite the unfolding melee, Carvalho has the situation under control. But then he does something incomprehensible. He becomes possessed by Ronaldinho’s reputation. Like a King Cobra under the influence of a lute, he is transfixed. Rather than close the space to Ronaldinho, Carvalho stops.

There’s nothing in the defence manual, handed down from Moore to Maldini via Baresi, to validate Carvalho’s decision to back off. Ronaldinho is standing still. He doesn’t have momentum on his side so he can’t burst past Carvalho. The Portuguese centre-back seems so obsessed with the idea of Ronaldinho putting the ball through his legs that he stands knock-kneed, unable to move.

Then comes the moment of contact with the ball.

Spot the Barcelona fan

Times Newspapers Ltd
2
Spot the Barcelona fan

The outside of the foot has long been one of the game’s most graceful instruments when it comes to moving the ball from A to B. There has been no better exponent of the art than Ricardo Quaresma, who completely negated the need for a left foot thanks to his mastery of the fifth metatarsal.

But Ronaldinho’s finish is all big toe. Credit where credit is due, Ronaldinho’s executes the shot with very little back, but because of that it doesn’t possess the requisite pace to be aesthetically pleasing. There’s nothing emphatic about the way the ball hits the back of the net. It’s neither top nor bottom corner. It just… is.

This is by no means a hit piece on Ronaldinho. His goal against Sevilla could be put forward as the greatest debut strike to grace a football match. His goal against Villarreal, falling away off the wrong foot, is one of football’s greatest acrobatic feats. His first goal for Brazil is a delight in ingenuity. Sergio Ramos is lucky to still have a career given what Ronaldinho once did to him during El Clasico.

It goes without saying that Ronaldinho’s CV is dripping with incredible strikes, and that’s before we get into the countless free-kicks he whistled past goalkeepers the world over. The goal against Chelsea, although unorthodox, is not one of them.


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