Wilson’s Wisdom: Ronaldinho exit sparks Fratton memories

Ronaldinho. Picture: Steve Reid (084754-21)
Ronaldinho. Picture: Steve Reid (084754-21)
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Remember when Ronaldinho saved his AC Milan team from defeat at Pompey?

Even now, nearly seven years on from that epic night, it seems a strange thing to write.

The Brazilian came on with 16 minutes to go of a pulsating Uefa Cup clash at Fratton Park and scored a fabulous free-kick which inspired the late Italian fightback for a 2-2 draw.

It remains the night that most supporters talk about when discussing the best atmosphere they can remember at the old stadium.

Old Ronnie was impressed as well.

‘It’s the best atmosphere in world football,’ he said afterwards.

I know some Pompey fans have become a bit fed up with the misty-eyed nostalgia but that game popped into my head this week when it was announced Ronaldinho had left Brazilian club Fluminense by mutual consent.

He made nine appearances in three months and was apparently booed by his own fans during a defeat last month.

He failed to score in any of those games and did not provide an assist either.

At 35 years old, he probably isn’t quite the player he once was.

In the photo I saw of him, he looks a bit heavier than he used to be.

Then again, aren’t we all?

But many of us saw him at close quarters in his prime playing years – even if it was only for those 16 minutes.

It was a privilege and it was also a bit surreal. I disliked him for his part in robbing Pompey of a famous victory.

But you had to admire his ability.

Strangely, I was in the Milton end that night, which is not the usual location for the media.

I was covering the game – it was all hands on deck at The News that night – but the club were swamped with requests for a place in the press box from just about every media outlet in the land.

There was also a huge travelling press pack from Italy.

So my work started the moment the game finished as we got all the reaction to a memorable evening.

When Tony Adams suggested he was ‘delighted’ with the result afterwards, it certainly didn’t sum up my feelings.

But when Ronaldinho was summoned from the bench by Carlo Ancelotti with his team in dire need of some inspiration, I still recall my instant reaction to my colleagues when he struck that telling free-kick.

‘It’s wide.’ Except It wasn’t.

There’s talk that he is looking for a move back to a top European club, even though he already has Paris St Germain and Barcelona on his CV.

I hope he doesn’t.

There is something to be said for bowing out when the time is right and not diluting the memories of a quality player who won the World Cup, the Champions League and was twice voted as Fifa’s world player of the year.

He does not deserve to have infinitely lesser players kicking lumps out of him as his remaining pace dwindles.

Unless of course, he fancies a short spell playing in the ‘best atmosphere in world football’?

Over to you, Mr Cook and Mr Catlin…