You’d have been as well off with Wikipedia for reliable sourcing of “Ronaldinho for Blackburn” news. This time yesterday, entries one and three on page one for the Google entry “Blackburn Ronaldinho” read, “Blackburn have denied reports that they could be ready to make an audacious bid to land AC Milan’s Ronaldinho in the transfer window”, and, “Premier League club Blackburn Rovers have sensationally joined the race to sign Brazilian superstar Ronaldino”. He is now, apparently, returning to Brazil, although . So, was anyone lying, if anyone? And why? The impression was certainly been created that there is an arse/elbow co-ordination deficiency at the heart of Rovers’ new ownership. While it is clear that the sister rules the two brothers in the Rao family’s business empire. The Blackburn ‘project’ was supposed to be Balaji Rao’s, the – let’s be brutally honest here – porn star-looking one who is in charge of the family’s ‘non-synergistic diversifications’. But he’s been about as vocal on his new diversification as a Harpo Marx tribute act with laryngitis and a missing car horn.
There were reports that the whole Ronaldinho thing was his idea. But he has also been called the “brains” behind the idea of making Maradona manager, which is surely a contradiction in terms. His brother Venkatesh, the man who puts the ‘Venk’ in ‘Venky’s (as in ‘Venkateshwara Hatcheries’, or ‘VH Group’), has been the Ronaldinho rumour denier, claming that “hopefully we can make things clearer in a week,” while making it clear that this week “there is no interest (in Ronaldinho) at all, they are just rumours.” Meanwhile, big sister Anuradha Desai was sticking to her resolve to say anything she thinks people want to hear, as often as possible, using all the social networking skills at her disposal – hence the Facebook and Twitter musings on two-year deals worth 7.2 million euros. These were not-quite-quickly-enough airbrushed from Facebook history. But 24 hours later, she was re-rewriting history, telling Sky Sports News, with her trademark cluelessness, that “we are bidding for Mr Ronaldinho.”
The fun continued when “Mr” Ronaldinho’s brother and agent Roberto de Assis told that fount of all Blackburn knowledge, journalist Alan Nixon: “Blackburn have contacted us,” before adding that “this is confidential.” Which it was…until he mentioned it to Nixon. Manager Steve Kean’s contributions have been a joy to behold, too. “If any Premier League manager was asked if they wanted to sign someone who has been World Player of the Year they would be interested,” he noted dutifully, without specifying which year the “someone” would have been player of – can’t imagine Lothar Matthaus would add much to the Rovers’ midfield these days.
“I think it has been a long time since we have been able to do that,” he added, without specifying when this time was, unless he was getting Chris Sutton and Cristiano Ronaldo confused in his mind. Happens all the time, that. Especially with the pressure Kean’s been under lately, the poor lad. Of course, Milan, the club Ronaldinho is leaving, have politely suggested that “the club has received no bid for Ronaldinho from anyone, including Blackburn,” whilst adding that, by the way, our vice-president is “in Rio, meeting the player’s agent and dealing with his contract.”, and Milan’s coach Massimiliano Allegri suggested that Ronaldinho had decided to “change his life” – which certainly would not rule out a move to Ewood Park – and “go back to Brazil” – which certainly would rule out a move to Ewood Park, unless Allegri’s hearing was decidedly faulty and he’d got his “B” words mixed up.
There were, of course, at least two “B” words which might cover this whole story, only one of which rhymes with ‘rollocks.’ But while it was a story that kept on giving, the logic behind it escapes me entirely. The cynics view would be that the whole thing was a publicity stunt, and there can be no doubt that Venky’s has a few thousand more ‘Google’ entries as a result of the few days’ speculation. But what helpful publicity can Venky’s have gained by this “statement of intent” to bid for a player that they probably couldn’t afford and who hadn’t himself shown the slightest interest in going anywhere other than home?
For people of a certain age, the concept of Ronaldinho at Blackburn has echoes of Charlton Athletic’s signing of former European Footballer of the Year, Denmark’s Allan Simonsen, to play in English football’s second-tier in front of a few thousand disaffected South Londoners in a cavernous, decrepit stadium, alongside giants of the game such as… er… Derek Hales. This was a vanity project to beat the band. Charlton chairman Mark Hulyer took advantage of Simonsen’s disaffection with life at Barcelona to bring him to The Valley in September 1982 (no, don’t go away, this really happened). Simonsen apparently wanted away from the trials and tribulations of high-profile superstardom (most notably the trial of competing for his place in Barca’s side with future putative Blackburn manager Diego Maradona), and the Valley in 1982 certainly provided that.
Simonsen averaged a goal every other game for about four months until, you’ll be so shocked to hear, it finally emerged that Hulyer didn’t have the financial wherewithal to seal the deal. So Simonsen buggered off back to Denmark as fast as his little legs could carry him. The experience didn’t do him much harm; he was back in England in September 1983 to score the most important goal in Danish football history, which knocked Bobby Robson’s men out of the European Championships. But both Charlton and Hulyer were damn near bankrupted and Charlton were damn near relegated, and out of the Valley within two years.
The whole Ronaldinho farrago might have threatened similar consequences, had it come to pass. It continues to carry the hallmark of being another misguided Venky’s venture – a product of the ego of a poor little rich boy living off his father’s fortune, and his sister, who simply doesn’t get ‘it’ with regard to Blackburn Rovers and top-flight English club football. Even if had signed Ronaldinho, he has hardly played for months, so his match fitness will be at the levels we saw from him in a filled-out Brazilian shirt in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Robert Pires’ reign as the most unathletic footballer in the Premier League would have been a short one.
Buried by this potentially bad news was the conformation of Kean’s appointment as Rovers manager until the end of the season, which may prove that he’s in the job because of who he knows rather than what he has done. One win in four games against the likes of West Ham and Stoke is not normally the sort of record to have owners thinking, “He has a vision, he thinks well.”, and, if Kean is thinking well, he must be thinking, ‘Well, it’s handy that SEM are my agents.’ If this all sounds like another unadulterated go at Venky’s in general and Anuradha Desai in particular, that’s because it is. And unless or until someone, Anyone, with a modicum of football nous comes in with enough authority to dissuade Desai and her brothers from their follies, a famous old football club will quickly become a famous old laughing stock – if it hasn’t done already.