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Ronaldo- Misunderstood?

Eton Blue at the Chelsea Megastore

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If a defender is dumb enough to offer a leg, then Ronaldo will hit the ground. Is that cheating? Running at speed, with the ball at his feet, watching for a clumsy leg, waiting for the chance to go down.

The problem with Cristiano Ronaldo is that he is cute, more skilled at his art than the defenders he comes up against. The public are concerned and looking for cheats. Ronaldo isn?t one of them.

They?ve seen people like Arjen Robben and Didier Drogba of Chelsea in the past, players who are not very good at it.

Ronaldo is different. Against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, he dragged his back leg and waited for the challenge. Jonathan Woodgate?s mistake was making it, inviting Ronaldo to go to ground.

Liverpool?s Steven Gerrard is good at it and I played with John Aldridge, who was a master at winning penalties.

Everton?s Andrew Johnson is another. He is a busy, quick, hungry little fella who drives into dangerous areas at speed. He?s not a cheat, either.

Watch Ronaldo and how quickly he moves the ball, shifting it, changing it between his feet, looking and waiting for a clumsy foot from a defender being forced back towards his goal.

It isn?t new. Francis Lee was very good at it, so was Rodney Marsh, who once told me that he practised it ? feeling for the touch from the defender and then going to ground.

Ronaldo will do it again, but he is no cheat.


If England are drawing 0-0 in Tel Aviv on Saturday and Andrew Johnson races through, sees the chance to win a penalty, because of an awkward tackle, what do you want him to do?

Stay on his feet and celebrate the good old English honesty? Is that the same honesty that saw England out of the World Cup early again last summer, while Portugal dived for fun and France and Italy didn?t need much of an invite to go to ground?

I am not condoning cheating, simply saying that the game has changed. If we want to embrace the foreign players for their skill and entertainment, then we need to accept that going to ground is part of their make-up.

The furore surrounding Ronaldo is in danger of driving him out of English football and towards Real Madrid. Apart from a few full backs, who will be happy with that?

I want to see that boy remain in the Premiership. He is a remarkable footballer, an incredible talent. A powerful, awesome match-winner of a player, who has scored 34 goals in 90 League starts for United.

He hurts the opposition with his driving power and it is inevitable that he will win penalties if a defender allows him into the box and then clumsily lunges in.

He is cute, dangerous, he looks for the dangling leg ? he waits for it, he sees it, he goes for it. He?s like a fisherman dangling his bait and waiting for the catch.

Is there any difference between Ronaldo and Michael Owen when he?s playing for England? Owen?s pace made him a danger, he?d draw a clumsy tackle and would go over. England won a penalty at the World Cup against Argentina like that.

I can?t help thinking there is an overreaction to Ronaldo; that he is a foreigner, so he must be a cheat. But what if that attitude towards him forces him away?

The Premiership would be a sad place without him.


Don?t blame the player, blame the laws. Flair players are too protected now. Football has become almost a non-contact sport, you can?t tackle.

In my day, if I had tried to trick Stuart Pearce into conceding a penalty with a few step-overs, I would have ended up in row Z and referees would be saying: "Well done, who does he think he is?"

I didn?t go down because I wouldn?t win free-kicks. If I was playing now with these rules, of course I would do all I could to gain an advantage.

I wouldn?t say it?s an art, but if you are touched, you go down. The rules protect the skilful players in the name of entertainment.

So Ronaldo must be a nightmare to play against, because the odds are stacked against the defenders and he is terrific at gaining an advantage.

He is no worse or no different to other quick players who will run into the danger areas, such as Liverpool?s Craig Bellamy or Everton?s Andrew Johnson.

Ronaldo has been involved in some diving before, but not this season. He has removed it from his game and is a better player for it.

I can?t help thinking that he is being judged with the baggage of the summer, when he was accused of getting Wayne Rooney sent off in the World Cup.

Just like David Beckham in 1998, we live in a blame culture and Ronaldo has been wrongly accused of forcing England out of the tournament.

There is a fine line between leaving a trailing leg and cheating. Robert Pires used to do it blatantly at Arsenal and that was cheating. Ronaldo is different. He moves so quickly that the slightest touch will send him off balance.

With the modern football rules, that?s enough.


When Ronaldo first came here, you could try to intimidate him. Not any more. He?s stronger, quicker and more direct. His superficial skills have turned into dynamic, penetrative ones.

So does a full back get touch tight to him and risk the space in behind (where Wayne Rooney can wreak havoc), or let him run at you? I would humbly suggest the best way to try to play him is to get in his face, before ? or as ? he receives the ball.

Conceding the odd foul high up the pitch by leaning in or nudging him can disrupt his and his team?s rhythm, allowing your own team to get back and help.

He has learned to vary his game, hugging the touchline and then drifting inside, getting in between defenders in no-man?s-land. It?s what we hate.

If you get sucked in too tight, too early, then he spins in behind you and there?s no chance of catching him. On the other hand if you drop off and allow him to run at you, then he can twist you inside out.

Ideally, a team should try to stop the supply, but that?s easier said than done with the passing range of his team-mates Paul Scholes or Michael Carrick.

In his early days, Ronaldo would use tricks and flicks, giving a good defender half a chance. Now, he can go either way, with either foot constantly manipulating the ball to take you off balance.

If he gets you going backwards, you need to try to delay him, wait for other players to come and double up, but if it?s one-on-one you have to try to nick the ball away from him.

His reactions are lighting fast and if you catch him, he will invariably go down. He is very clever at what he does.

If there is contact, under the rules, he has a right to go down and the right to force the referee to make a decision, it?s not cheating it?s using the laws to their maximum.

Ronaldo is a magnificent footballer. In this form, almost unstoppable.

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Yes, diving is part of the game now, but it IS still cheating - whether you are good at it or not.

Personally, I think a good way to stamp it out would be to have some kind of a post-match review of TV footage of matches. If someone is found doing a blatant dive (like that one Pires did for the Arse a few years ago), they should get a 2 or 3 match ban.

I know in reality it would not be that simple - there are a lot of occaisions where from TV footage, you really can't tell whether there was a foul, a dive, or a player just tripping over. But, it would be a good start.

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