04 February, 2008

The Times Solves a Mystery!

As Cristiano Ronaldo is in line for a contract extension and pay rise that will make him Britain’s highest paid footballer, STT wonders just what is the secret to those spell-binding freekicks of his? Despite guffaws from Sir Alex Ferguson when asked if it’s as simple as connecting dead-on with the panel on the ball that houses the valve, this seems to be the trick, as time and time again Ronaldo religiously positions the ball with the valve facing him, just above centre. The technique is closer to a full-blooded straight toe-poke than an arching instep, with the lightweight nature of today’s balls doing the rest.

One intrepid Times reporter however thinks today that he has cracked it. You can thank a Mr. Jonathan Northcroft for this remarkable insight:

"When Ronaldo places the ball, rather than teeing it up like most free kick takers, he pushes it into the ground so when he plants his standing foot next to the ball it pops up, giving the shot something of the quality of a volley. Perhaps this is why he imparts such dip.”

Er, what? Have you ever actually played football Jonathan? That’s one of the best things I’ve heard for a while!

The key is practice, and a commitment on the training pitch that would belay his usual arrogant swagger. Don’t let the orange boots, jewelry and glamorous arm-candy fool you because every day after training he will stay behind to simply hit freekicks, adjusting for range, swerve and potential wall placements in an artisan exercise previously only undertaken by David Beckham, Lyon’s revelationary Juninho, Roberto Carlos and Ronaldinho. It’s clear that at heart Ronaldo is a true professional, committed to one day becoming the best player in the world, if not even of our generation.

Just when though can we truly sing his praises alongside the aforementioned Ronaldinho, as well as the likes Romario, Stoichkov, the Laudrups and Zidane? Well once he has won a major trophy I guess, that seems to be the qualifier. Champions League glory with Man United or European Championship success this summer with Portugal and then, yes, we can start talking about him as at least the best player in the world…