The burden of Ronaldo

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The Independent Online
Spain

Ronaldo, the new hero of Nou Camp, is, it seems, under as much pressure at Barcelona as the Spanish club's coach, Bobby Robson.

The former England manager is unhappy that, when his pounds 13m striker has an off game, so does the team. "We can't always expect Ronaldo to sort out the games for us," Robson said after Wednesday's 1-1 home draw with Tenerife that handed the lead in the Spanish First Division to their big rivals, Real Madrid. "He shouldn't be the key... he's only 20 years old."

Ronaldo was shut out by the Tenerife defender Cesar Gomez and failed to score for the first time in four games. With five in six matches, though, the Brazilian international is the league's top scorer.

Despite Barcelona's good start, they have had flak from their former coach, Johan Cruyff. "Frankly, they're playing badly," the Dutchman said last week. He is still a season-ticket holder at Nou Camp, and receives a hero's welcome at every home game - despite his ongoing law suits against the club for unfair dismissal and loss of earnings.

The official response to their former coach's criticisms came yesterday from Joan Gaspart, a club vice-president, who said: "If Cruyff doesn't say bad things about Barcelona, he'll be a nobody." This dispute will surely run and run...

Brazil

All is not well in Ronaldo's homeland, Brazil. Beset by on-field violence, the domestic league has now been criticised by the country's greatest footballing son: Pele.

"It worries me to know that more people attend rodeos than football matches in Brazil," Pele said last weekend. "Brazil are the only four-time world champions, but most of our football clubs are broke."

The 24-team national league and its gruelling twice-a-week schedule is a big problem, according to Pele. "If we don't organise our most traditional teams into a truly professional league, they may be doomed to bankruptcy," he said.

Italy

Much embarrassment at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Wednesday night, where Sampdoria were beaten 2-0 by their city rivals, Genoa, who completed a 4-2 aggregate win in the second round of the Italian Cup. Genoa are now in the Second Division, and after losing to them it seems that the Sampdoria coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, needs some good results to save his job.

The Sampdoria president, Enrico Mantovani, said after the game: "My first problem now is to find a way of refunding those Sampdoria fans who bought tickets for tonight's game. Tonight we played very badly. Everything is now up for discussion and when I say everything, I mean the coach, his assistant, the squad and the directors."

Romania

A Romanian non-League team, trailing their opponents 16-0, fled from the field two minutes before time last Sunday after fans threatened to strip them naked if they conceded two more goals. "With the score 16-0 for the opposing team, some gypsy fans shouted Athletic Bucharest would leave the stadium naked if they lost the game 18-0." the newspaper Evenimentul Zilei reported.

The club have been fined 50 million lei (almost pounds 10,000) by the Romanian football federation for failing to finish the game. "We're very sorry for Athletic but we had to apply the rules, which are the same for everybody," a federation spokesman said.

Rupert Metcalf

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