I don’t think there’s anything anyone can show me now that I haven’t seen of him,” Eberechi Eze says insistently. “I’ve watched so many videos of him… I want someone to show me a video that I haven’t seen.”
The man in question is Ronaldinho and Eze is speaking with the excitement of an eight-year-old boy, enamoured by his idol’s ability to entertain.
It’s not such a jump from that young boy to Eze today, with the Palace midfielder retaining much of his formative wonder for the great Brazilian.
“Honestly,” he continues, “we’d come home from school or whatever we were doing, go on the computer and just type in ‘Ronaldinho’. Any video we saw, whether it be him playing football or doing whatever, we just watched it.
“There’s probably no video you could show us that we hadn’t seen before. Even now, I type in ‘Ronaldinho’ and still watch him. That’s how much of an impact he’s had on me.”
It’s all too easy to inflate a footballer’s affection for another player beyond reality, with most naming their generation’s prescribed idols when asked. In today’s game, that starts with Zinedine Zidane, moves on to both Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, continues with Thierry Henry and, inevitably amongst the Academy ranks, ends with Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
But Eze’s reverence for Ronaldinho extends beyond platitudes trotted out to the press: a fascination with football’s ability to enthral was birthed by his example