By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - Brazilian international and two time World Player of the Year, 30 year-old Ronaldinho Gaúcho has signed with Rio’s 2009 champions Flamengo, in a four year deal worth an estimated R$1,000,000 a month. Flamengo head coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo called it the best deal in the history of Brazilian soccer.
“I can imagine these supporters in a full stadium,” said Ronaldinho. “The supporters can expect the best from me. I also hope that my performances can put me back in the Brazilian team again.”
Flamengo president Patricia Amorim also confirmed the signing. “This is a very special day for Flamengo. Flamengo can finally celebrate, Ronaldinho is ours,” she said.
The move has left the blue half of Porto Alegre incensed, after the discussions of a move to hometown club Gremio ended due to wage demands. Sao Paulo side Palmeiras, as well as Premier League outfit Blackburn Rovers, also failed with bids to lure the former Barcelona and Milan player.
However, Ronaldinho’s choice of destination has left an especially bitter taste in the mouth of Gremio fans, who felt that the capture of their former idol was all but a formality. Fans have described the icon as a “mercenary” and a “traitor” after he rejected a move home in favor of the big bucks deal that has taken him to Rio de Janeiro.
After talks in Rio Grande de Sul broke down at the end of last week, fans hurled verbal insults at the player in a Porto Alegre nightclub and he had to be escorted to a car by security staff. One of the world’s greatest players, Pele, couldn’t resist putting the boot in either. “If he really loves Gremio, he should play there for free,” the three time World Cup winner commented.
Ronaldinho Gaucho began his career as an eighteen year old at Gremio and played for them for three years before signing for French side Paris St. Germain, despite publicly promising fans he would not leave in the summer of 2001. Fans now see his latest career move as the second time he has betrayed them in his twelve year career. Gremio president Paulo Odone spared no punches when referring to the midfielder or his brother and agent, Roberto de Assis.
Ronaldinho is hoping the move back to his homeland can kick start his career with the national side, which has stalled off late as younger talents begin to be blooded in preparation for Brazil hosting the World Cup in 2014.
Ronaldinho is following former national team-mates Ronaldo and Adriano, in returning to Brazil by signing with Flamengo, in an attempt to get their careers back on track.
Meanwhile, 2010 Brasileiro champions Fluminense are still facing an uphill struggle to hang onto their big name players. While transfer talk has quieted somewhat in recent weeks regarding Argentine superstar Dario Conca, striker Fred is continuously linked with a return to either France’s Ligue 1 or Italy’s Serie A.
In addition, right back Mariano, who was called up by new Selecao coach Mano Menezes for the October friendlies, has attracted interest from Serie A leaders AC Milan. The Rossoneri’s defense is increasingly aging an vulnerable, and it is thought that in injection of young, attack minded blood can propel the club towards their first national league title since 2003.