Why Poor Ronaldinho Display vs. Chile Should Be His Last International Chance

Christopher AtkinsContributor IApril 25, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Ronaldinho of Brazil in action during the International friendly between England and Brazil at Wembley Stadium on February 6, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Ronaldinho and his Atlético Mineiro side have enjoyed a fine start to the 2013 season, excelling in the Copa Libertadores to achieve straightforward qualification to the latter stages. Thus far, they have been wonderful to watch.

However, the long-haired former Barcelona magician has repeatedly failed to bring that form to the international stage. It is no longer a case of just an off-day here or there.

For all the difficulties of the Copa Libertadores, it offers a very different style of football to that at international level. Most away sides are content to sit back and merely hope not to concede, while the idea of pressing high up the pitch is practiced by just a small minority of teams.

For an old-fashioned No. 10, as Ronaldinho has become in his late career, it is heavenly. You are given time and space to pick your passes, and likewise to capitalise on the delivery of others.

As such, the likes of Riquelme, Juan Veron and Juninho Pernambucano have all been able continue playing at the highest level well into their 30s in recent years. That they would achieve anywhere near the same level of influence internationally is highly debatable.

Ronaldinho's last four international appearances have now gone as follows: Anonymous in victory over 10-man Ghana, similarly ineffective in defeat to England, reasonably good in victory over a domestic-based Bolivia side and now bypassed in a game against Chile's home-based talent.

It is a run of games that makes for far from pleasant reading.

Chile are very modern in their style, and have been since the Marcelo Bielsa era. Their high-intensity pressing game is as close to the top European nations as Brazil will find in South America. It severely hampered the Seleção on Wednesday night.

Ronaldinho was perhaps the most affected. While midfielders Paulinho and Ralf have had better games, they are not the players designated to supply creativity. Jadson had a good game from his position tucked in on the right, while Neymar should have scored more than his one goal.

That is not, of course, to say that Neymar played particularly well—he has had much better games. Indeed, he too must prove capable of upping his game when hurried by defenders. He does, though, have the movement and speed to break free on occasion.

For Ronaldinho, that luxury has long since gone.

There is a belief within the Brazil camp that either Ronaldinho or Kaka is needed to supply experience to the forward line. Both, though, have struggled to produce their best form for Brazil.

Kaka, who had a good spell last autumn against the likes of Iraq, Japan and China, is currently ahead in the pecking order. However, he too has struggled in more recent games with Colombia, England and Russia. A lack of minutes at club level, also, surely cannot help.

Based on actual contribution for Brazil, the simple truth is that neither are deserving of a place. Oscar far and away outperforms both for the Seleção, while the same could be said of Jadson over the past two domestic based fixtures.

While Scolari may not abandon the idea yet, he should at least be considering it.

Ronaldinho has been a truly phenomenal player, but he is not the same figure anymore. That he can still impress for Atlético Mineiro is a blessing for all those able to witness it, but the game in Brazil is very different to international football.

Brazilian football is very much stuck in a tactical mire, with the same few coaches repeating the same old tricks with a handful of top sides. Chile, conversely, have moved on, and are experiencing success with a far more limited talent pool and budget than Brazil has to offer.

A Brazilian club will no doubt win the Copa Libertadores, but that will be due to the quality of player they can afford more than any tactical innovation. Ronaldinho now belongs in that sphere. The international game, sadly, would appear to have moved on without him.