BARCELONA – Ronaldo Nazario in Barça. The brief but unforgettable adventure of his time at Barcelona began on July 17, 1996, 25 years ago, when the then young Brazilian star in Miami stamped his signature on the contract that led him personally Joan Gaspart to the concentration of the national team that he was preparing his participation in the Olympic Games in Atlanta. A media signing, a monumental signing … And a season to remember.
Now, when in the midst of a scandal with the discovered recordings of Florentino Pérez, the Galacticos series in which Ronaldo plays an obvious role is about to premiere in Spain, the signing that revolutionized the Camp Nou 25 ago and the Barça fans in full returns to the plane, who thought he found in that Brazilian an idol with a long history … But whose permanence at Barça was barely a sigh.
His stage in Barcelona was brief but intense. Brief but adorned with unforgettable days, superb goals and an immediate infatuation with the Camp Nou fans, who nine months after their debut against Atlético de Madrid enjoyed their last exhibition against Deportivo La Coruña without suspecting that the eight years contract that had been signed in Miami would culminate after eleven months in his departure to Inter de MIlán.
The signing of Ronaldo by Barça began to take shape in the last week of May 1996. Days after the explosive dismissal of Johan Cruyff, the then president of the club, Josep Lluís Núñez, agreed with his most direct collaborators the need to strike of effect with which to alleviate before the fans the fury caused by the departure of the Dutch coach. Bobby Robson, the new coach, was betting on signing Alan Shearer, top scorer in the Premier League in the last two seasons and with whom he had a very close relationship, but Núñez, remembering the case of Archibald and Hugo Sánchez that happened twelve years earlier, imposed the name of the young Brazilian, Romario’s successor at PSV Eindhoven and whose figure, at 19, was already venturing monumental.
The negotiation with PSV was not easy. Although a knee injury left him out of competition for more than half a season during the 1995-96 academic year, the explosiveness he had already shown in his first year (35 goals in 36 games) and the 19 scored in 21 appearances in that second season They made him the most brilliant figure in the Dutch League and a player called to mark an era.
Barcelona presented an offer of 10 million dollars that the then president of PSV, Willem Maeyer, did not respond, warning that Ronaldo was “non-transferable” … Situation that suddenly changed as soon as the footballer, from Rio de Janeiro, revealed his wishes. “I don’t want to go back to Holland,” he proclaimed at the beginning of June, while Barça publicly negotiated the signing of his compatriot Giovanni with Santos … and with him in secret.
Also Inter Milan, who had just sold Roberto Carlos off to Real Madrid, fixed their eyes on Ronaldo, matching Barça’s offer and withdrawing shortly after, but acquiring a preferential right for the following year while paying 5 million for the Nigerian Nwankwo. Kanu to Ajax Amsterdam.
Barcelona increased its proposal to the 15 million dollars that continued to seem insufficient to a PSV that, remembering the tug of war of three years before with Romario as the protagonist, took off demanding the double, which at the Camp Nou was understood as the beginning of the agreement. Thus, on July 10, the Dutch club gave its approval to an offer of 20 million dollars and the contracts were drawn up, with Ronaldo already concentrated under Mario Zagalo’s orders to play the Games.
There the final chapter and more amazing if possible of the novel of his signing opened. Americo Faria, director responsible for the Brazilian team, prohibited the representatives of Barcelona, with Vice President Joan Gaspart at the head and Dr. Borrell in charge of submitting him to a medical examination, from having any contact with Ronaldo, revealing the hand of PSV, which intended to increase the price, relying on a clause in the contract that specified its validity for only 15 days.
Borrell sneaked into the hotel through the kitchens to visit Ronaldo in his room and Gaspart came to the player disguising himself as a waiter to get his signature and the Brazilian leaders, furious but surrendered to the evidence, ended up allowing Barça to present the forward in a hotel room.
FROM IDYLL TO DIVORCE
Ronaldo’s adventure in Barcelona has already been explained many times. The immediate infatuation, the idyll of the Phenomenon with a fan devoted to his smile, goals and performance … And the unexpected divorce, inconceivable for everyone and received with an incredulity that would cost to fit around the Camp Nou.
He made his debut for Barça scoring two goals on August 25, 1996 at the Montjuïc stadium on the occasion of the Spanish Super Cup against Atlético de Madrid (5-2), already causing delirium and leaving iconic images of superb goals to be remembered. Compostela, Valencia, Deportivo, Zaragoza, Real Sociedad, Atlético, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain … There were 47 goals in 49 games, a spectacular never seen and still remembered.
The final divorce, which was consummated on May 30, began to take shape already in November, weeks after his legendary goal against Compostela and when Barça, despite having signed a contract for eight seasons and paying him a then astronomical salary of 1.8 millions of dollars a year, he tried to retouch the conditions, frightened by their impact, and began to negotiate with his representatives an improvement, which they took advantage of to demand a sidereal increase, almost unattainable and that ended his departure.
“They deceived me. I wanted to stay but it was not in my hands and Núñez deceived us,” said Ronaldo himself many years later, recalling that abrupt departure that caused his tears when he learned the outcome and his transfer to Inter Milan, which paid the almost $ 34 million specified in its termination clause.
Thus ended, badly, a dream that for a year marveled in Barcelona. The signing of a Phenomenon that is 25 years old.