Queretaro’s Ronaldinho warms up on the sidelines during a Mexican soccer league semi-final match against Pachuca in Queretaro, Sunday, May 24, 2015 (AP Photo/Christian Palma)
Ronaldinho is a football icon. He’s appeared in Nike commercials, graced the cover of FIFA video games, won the World Cup and has been named FIFA Player of the Year twice.
But that means nada to Queretaro head coach Victor Manuel Vucetich.
Ronaldinho, 35, has been playing for Querataro the past two seasons. Vucetich joined the club midway through this season and lead Los Gallos Blancos to their first Liga MX finals in club history. The former Barcelona man should be a hero in the small state for leading the team to such heights, but he is not.
Ronaldinho, easily the most recognizable name in Mexico’s finals this wek, may not even play Thursday in the first leg of the series against Santos Laguna (6:30 p.m., Azteca America).
That’s because Ronaldinho’s tumultuous time in Mexico hit a boiling point last week during the first leg of the semifinals. After being subbed out just before halftime, Ronaldinho left the stadium before the game was over. He apologized to the club and its fans the next day.
Vucetich called the switch a “tactical” move. “We couldn’t give anything away [down 2-0]. The fact they didn’t score (another goal) allows us to be alive in the series.”
Vucetich, who is in his seventh Liga MX finals, was right.
With Ronaldinho on the bench, Queretaro went on to win the second leg 2-0 to advance to the finals. The series-winning goal was scored by former Chivas USA defender Jonathan Bornstein’s in the second half.
Nicknamed King Midas for taking struggling clubs and turning them into champions, leading Queretaro to the finals could be Vucetich’s best job as a coach to date.
Reports in Mexico indicate Ronaldinho’s time with Queretaro is over and that player and club have agreed to go their separate ways at the end of the season. He did travel with to Torreon, but most soccer pundits south of the border find it unlikely that the two-time player of the year starts tonight’s game.
However the guessing continues: Will he start on the bench or on field?
Throw-Ins About 2015 Clausura Liga MX Final:
– The final features the sixth seed against the eight seed in la liguilla. Santos was the eight seed; Queretaro the sixth.
– Other notable players (not named Ronaldinho) in the finals: Bornstein, Ricardo Osorio and Sinha for Queretaro; Goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin, Carlos Isquierdoz and Javier Orozco for Santos.
– The coaches: Santos’ Pedro Caixinha of Portugal is in his first final with Santos after reaching losing in the semifinals three times; Vucetich, a former head coach of Mexico’s national team, is in his seventh final and has only lost once before, to Santos in 2012.
– If you don’t speak Spanish but want to keep up with the final, follow Santos’ English-language twitter account @ClubSantosEn, which is managed by an American living in Mexico.
– Second leg of finals is Sunday in Queretaro at 6:30 p.m. on Azteca America.