Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Ronaldinho hot again
World's former best player improving; Turkish side wants him
It was 10 years ago last week that the Brazilian playmaker, who helped get his country a record fifth World Cup the previous summer, made his debut for Barcelona in a friendly match against AC Milan.
He scored once and added an assist as his new side beat the Rossoneri 2-0 in front of more than 45,000 people at Washington, D.C.'s RFK Stadium -- a performance that would set the tone for one of the most memorable individual eras in football history.
Over the next five seasons, Barcelona would win a pair of Primera Division titles and a Champions League crown, and Ronaldinho -- the consensus best player in the world -- would be recognized as such by FIFA in both 2004 and 2005.
But a poor 2006 World Cup and a quickly deteriorating standard of play (many observers blamed his demise on a fondness for nightlife) saw the attacker shipped to Milan in 2008, and after failing to catch on at the San Siro, he moved back to Brazil in 2011, joining Rio de Janeiro giants Flamengo.
These days, Ronaldinho represents Atletico Mineiro, and 10 days ago the Belo Horizonte-based club won the Copa Libertadores in dramatic fashion, beating Paraguay's Olimpico on penalties following a 2-2 aggregate draw.
While not the dominant player he was in his prime, the now 33-year-old still managed to put in a decent series of performances as O Galo won the top prize in South American football, and with the 2014 World Cup just over 10 months away, he could suddenly find himself back in manager Luiz Felipe Scolari's national setup if his modest renaissance continues.
It seems his recent play has also caught the attention of Istanbul side Besiktas.
Having come third in the Turkish Super Lig last season, Besiktas manager Slaven Bilic revealed Friday that his side was pursuing Ronaldinho -- statements club president Ahmet Nur Cebi echoed when he confirmed he had submitted a formal offer to Atletico Mineiro.
Atletico may opt to hold onto the player, especially as they look to improve on last term's second-place finish in the Campeonato Brasileiro. And with his football having so noticeably improved following his Flamengo exit, it's conceivable Ronaldinho would not want to mess with a good thing.
In any event, it would seem he is not washed up just yet, that there might a few more steps of magic from those famous feet before the boots are hung up for good.
-- Two performances that caught my eye this week: Isco's masterful showing for Real Madrid against Los Angeles Galaxy in Thursday's friendly in Glendale, Ariz., and Alexis Sanchez's performance for Barcelona against Santos on Friday. Sanchez, in particular, was in need of a good presentation, as new acquisition Neymar will surely have designs on his starting spot.
-- Spanish daily Marca is so certain of Gareth Bale's arrival at Real Madrid they've started using phrases such as "presuming the Gareth Bale saga does eventually end with the Welshman pitching up at the Bernabeu." A recent article claimed he would be like "five signings rolled into one," given his versatility across the attack and as a left-back.
-- A thought regarding Arsenal's relentless pursuit of Luis Suarez: Why is manager Arsene Wenger, who has been loath to spend money in the past, suddenly so willing to break the mold for a forward currently suspended for biting an opponent with a history of racial abuse? Suarez is a curious player for the Frenchman to suddenly abandon his principles for.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @JerradPeters
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2013 C6
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