André Savastano

Since Ronaldo returned to Brazil, and to form, playing for Corinthians and winning the Campeonato Paulista, combined with the Copa do Brazil, fans and pundits alike have begun to wonder: Is there space in the Seleção for his return? Can Ronaldo actually play at another World Cup?

Before ending up at Corinthians, Ronaldo got into shape under the watchful eye of Flamengo's doctors. Interestingly enough, one of these doctors, Runco MD, is also the doctor for the national team. Ronaldo flirted with the idea of signing for Flamengo, and despite the Flamengo board claiming a preliminary contract was signed, decided to head to Corinthians instead. In Corinthians Ronaldo saw greater stability, and in Ronaldo Corinthians saw a means to further increase ticket and shirt sales, combined with sponsorship agreements.

Ronaldo has held up his half of the bargain and delivered a string of stunning performances at club level. But, even with pressure mounting in the Brazilian press, Seleção coach Dunga has not yet opted for his return. The Brazil coach has since made it clear that he does not want the press to push him into making the same mistake his predecessor Carlos Alberto Parreira made in 2006, when an overweight Ronaldo was taken to the World Cup in Germany.

But whilst Ronaldo has much more to do to convince Dunga that he should board the plane to South Africa, another star that shone brightly with him in Europe seems closer to a boarding pass. Adriano, like Ronaldo, returned to Brazil, but to Flamengo, the club dear to his heart. Clearly living in his home-town, staying amongst friends in the favela where he was born has worked wonders with the former Internazionale striker.

Adriano, unlike Ronaldo, has returned to the Seleção fold. Even after the fiasco of the World Cup campaign in 2006, the 27-year-old has once again pulled on the yellow shirt. Clearly excellent performances for Flamengo, helping them to become real title contenders, was something Dunga could not overlook.

Despite a return to the national side however, Adriano could not cement his place in the first eleven. At the time of writing the owner of the famed number 9 shirt is none other than Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano, who completes the Seleção attack alongside Nilmar and Robinho.

Robinho, is an interesting case as both Adriano and Ronaldo battle to get back. The Manchester City forward has not impressed with Brazil in their recent games and his place in the side is now openly questioned by the Brazilian press. Once an automatic choice in any team Dunga would field, now Robinho seems to be under threat. The 25-year-old was included in the squad against England and Oman in the recent friendlies, as Dunga sought to give him chance to stake a claim. However, as Robinho was suffering with injury, Diego Tardelli was the obvious replacement. Tardelli, at the time fighting Adriano for the top scorer spot in the Brasileirao, has ever chance of making South Africa.

Yet, despite having four forwards who constantly appear in his squad, Dunga does not appear to have decided which, for certain, will be going to South Africa. Ronaldo especially and Alexandre Pato, can look forward to having their cases well and truly pushed by the Brazilian media in the first half of 2010.

And whilst the debate surrounding Brazil's attack seems sure to create a wave of interest as the World Cup approaches, there is also another area with the ability to spring a surprise.

The left side of the Seleção, unlike the right – which is dominated by Maicon, arguably the best right-back in the world – is a place where everything can change. Dunga has not yet found his ideal left-back after trying Andre Santos, Luis Filipe, Michel Bastos, Fabio Aurelio and Kleber. None quite made the grade, causing Dunga to gamble on Dani Alves. But Alves calls the right flank home, and this could present another name from the past with a shock opportunity.

Due to return to Brazil next year, to line up alongside Ronaldo at Corinthians, is the legendary Roberto Carlos. After a long career in Europe, the 36-year-old will gain a place in the shop window, once again plying his trade in his homeland. Roberto Carlos hopes this visibility, allied with calls from the national press, will see him force his way into Dunga's squad.

Despite being one of the greatest left-backs in history, Roberto Carlos, it is easy to forget, was judged as having failed at the 2006 World Cup in Germany – specifically in the clash with France, where he was felt to have allowed Thierry Henry to score the goal which ultimately eliminated the Seleção – and has not been capped since. The left-back was widely criticised in Brazil for the shambles of Germany and the blame attached to the former Real Madrid great is still remembered.

Roberto Carlos may be 36, and he may have struggled somewhat in Germany, but many believe he remains a player with the skills Dunga needs. He will though surely face the same questions as Ronaldo though, questions related to past physical problems as a result of being an ageing player.

Adriano, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos hark back to the past. Even with undoubted coming pressure from fans and press alike, it currently seems only Adriano has a realistic chance of being involved in South Africa. The top scorer in the Brasileirao, and just two goals from breaking the Flamengo goalscoring record (for Brasileriao goals), everything is pointing to Adriano needing to ready his passport for June.

The fortunes of Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos are no doubt interlinked. How Corinthians perform in the Copa Libertadores early next year will indeed be crucial. Should they both hit a run of good form then the pressure for their inclusion in the Seleção squad from the press and supporters will become overwhelming.

Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos have history in the yellow shirt. There they achieved greatness. And even though some believe anything can be expected from a national team coach who has called up Alfonso Alves and Huck, it would still be a surprise if the duo enjoyed a World Cup swan song in South Africa.

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