The Phenomenon fights back: Ronaldo returns home

Every year, at the end of each season, it's the norm to see blanket media coverage of the national champions from early December, when the tournament ends, until Christmas at least.

And if there’s not a natural catastrophe, already worn news about the winners are somehow squeezed into the New Year’s eve headlines too. This time, however, São Paulo's celebrations were cut short. Just two days after the Morumbi squad's triumph, when the news was still fresh, Corinthians dropped the bombshell that they were signing Ronaldo – and suddenly no one cared about the happy champions, or even remembered them.

If Ronaldo’s arrival stopped the presses in star-filled Milan, you can imagine the effect it had in Brazil, where blockbuster transfers are usually the other way around. It is indeed a phenomenon.

All 6,000 tickets to the ace’s official presentation at Parque São Jorge flew in a couple of days. Corinthians shirts with his name and number also disappeared from shops.

"I'll take that thank you" - Ronaldo shirts don't hang around for long 

Only Romário’s return to Flamengo, in 1995, can be matched to what we’re seeing now – with the difference that Shorty was in his prime, and Fatso is not only, well, still fat, but also hasn't played in almost a year.

In fact, not even the buck-toothed virtuoso himself knows when (and if) he’ll play again. But he guarantees one thing: “My partnership with Corinthians will pay off.”

Off the pitch, no one doubts it. Corinthians and Ronnie are already capitalising – be it on sponsorship deals (now the whole Corinthians kit is available to buy: not only the shirt, but socks, shorts, shirt sleeves and even the collar can be sponsorsed) or the media return they received from the worldwide coverage of his first days at Corinthians.

Ronnie laps up warm Corinthians welcome 

On the pitch, however, there’s skepticism aplenty. Many believe Ronaldo is finished, and that he will just drag himself along wearing the Corinthians shirt. Others are suggesting that Ronaldo will ask for privileges, and that the roster won’t receive him with the open arms – largely because his wages will be almost 10 times higher than the team’s young stars, like Dentinho.

Personally, I’m not one of them. I think Ronaldo was on the verge of giving up last year – pictures of him on a boat, smoking, carrying a giant belly around, showed it –, but he's decided to give it one more shot.

And, as I wrote in February when he suffered his latest injury in Milan, it’s not wise to bet against Ronaldo. “After all, this is a man whose favourite pastime, alongside pulling ladies and scoring goals, has been proving people wrong.”

"Aiiee!!" - Curtain comes down on Milan career in February 

My guess is he’ll be a hit with Corinthians. He’ll be cool with the team-mates, many of them lifelong fans of the Phenomenon. He was never known for skipping practices – in fact, few players spent more time in the gym than him, with his string of injuries.

His nightlife never hurt him on the pitch – even fat or half-awake he’s more dangerous than 99% of most other strikers.  I hope he doesn’t prove me wrong.

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