Honest, comprehensive, and compelling all the like, DAZN’s Ronaldo: El Presidente is a nice change of pace from the overly frantic and overwhelming sports documentaries that we’ve become so used to.
An all-access, behind-the-scenes look at one of the sport’s biggest names, DAZN’s El Presidente follows the first 18 months of Ronaldo Nazario’s tenure as club president of Real Valladolid.
The show is a fascinating watch with surprising depth into all of its subjects — from Ronaldo himself all the way down to the club, players, and even staff. An easy comparison would be Sunderland ‘Till I Die, however the states of the two clubs could not be more different.
The show features over four-and-a-half hours of runtime across six episodes, and most of that time is spent with Ronaldo, albeit mostly observationally. In fact, we see him reacting to footage and interviews of his friends more than we actually see him in a traditional sit-down fashion.
In typical pro athlete interviews, whether it’s a post game press conference, public appearance, or some other function that’s part of their club or brand, there’s often a highly controlled feel to it. Rehearsed answers and smiles and waves are how we normally see these elite players off the pitch. However, running a club, especially one with the lowest budget in La Liga that’s constantly fighting relegation, is anything but controlled or planned.
Despite this, the show is neither frantic nor constantly showing moments of frustration. It’s quite hopeful, positive, and calm. The narrative arc moves forward as the season happens, but the schedule is not the driving force. The season and match results are secondary to how Ronaldo runs the club, which is the main focus of the series.
When the team goes on a horrid scoreless streak, it is juxtaposed with when Ronaldo goes to Europe as a 17-year-old and scores nearly a goal a game for PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona. It is never outright said, but throughout the show you keep asking yourself, why Ronaldo chose Valladolid, when he could’ve gone anywhere. It must be so frustrating to watch a team score less goals in a season than you did by yourself as a player.
The pacing of the episodes is very well done. Each one has its own focus within the overarching themes, and we are not overloaded with game footage. Many times, we even know the outcome of a game before seeing anything from it, and what this does is move the show from a nail-biting sports series to a reflective documentary about a person that we all know as a player.
“Did Ronaldo’s decisions work?” is a much different question than, “What will happen in the game?” The stakes are raised in the former while the latter is surface-level drama. Everything is viewed under the larger context of growing the club and creating stability, not simply winning a game.
Keeping the viewer in this mindset throughout separates this show from Sunderland ‘Till I Die — that show wouldn’t have happened without the club falling apart. In contrast, El Presidente would’ve happened no matter what club Ronaldo bought into (oh how I wish Don Garber would’ve let a Ronaldo-owned Tampa Bay Rowdies into MLS without an expansion fee). This isn’t a knock against Sunderland ‘Till I Die, a great show that tells the brutal reality of relegation and its disregard for history, but not every relegation is a burning ship.
The one thing truly missing from the show is the fans’ perspective. We just have no real sense of what the locals actually think or feel towards Ronaldo. It’s hard to imagine they oppose him or complain he bought in — he’s a living legend who is committed to upgrading the entire club, and the first thing they did was stadium improvements. He left the manager in charge and wants the academy to be the focus of the club, creating long term stability. All these decisions on paper are good, with the club’s best interest in mind, not simply business decisions that can raise the club’s monetary value.
My favorite part of the show is seeing Ronaldo in a new way. He truly cares, and he knows his strengths and weaknesses. The amount of little conversations he has with players and staff, such as moments of advice, small talk, or even shit talk, are authentic moments that keep the show grounded.
The intertwining of Ronaldo’s career with what is happening at Valladolid is seamless and once again leans into the overarching question we all have when watching — “Why this club? He’s a legend, he could buy into anywhere.”
It’s because Ronaldo cares. At one point his agent talks about how involved Ronaldo was in making any career-related decisions. He says that not only was Ronaldo the sole maker of these decisions, but he also had to have a deep understanding of everything.
This show looks and sounds great, and the access is expansive and shows us a different side of the sport than what we normally see. This is not a high-energy, high-emotion, or action-packed sports doc. Rather, it is honest and, in many ways, a new look at a living legend that allows us to see him as his friends and co-workers do — a normal guy that cares about our sport and those in it. Ronaldo was different on the field, and it turns out he is different off it as well. His extraordinary talents are at a human level, not simply as an athlete, and that is the kind of “presi,” as his players call him, that we all want.
Will there be more? There is the opportunity for it. Variety reported that there will be at least three seasons of the series, with season two reportedly looking back at Ronaldo’s playing career. However, exploring Real Valladolid’s situation post-relegation in Segunda B would be really fascinating as well. One thing remains clear — the more quality Ronaldo content we can get, the better.
Stream the entire Ronaldo: El Presidente series on DAZN.