By Andrew Campbell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Ronaldinho Gaúcho, former two-time FIFA player of the year, has settled on Brazil’s biggest club Flamengo, as his new home. In trading the black and red stripes of AC Milan for the red and black of Flamengo, Ronaldinho hopes to increase his chances of getting back into the national team fold ,or the Seleção as it’s called in Brazil.
Though playing for a club like 2009 champion Flamengo increases his exposure, at 30 years-old, he is also competing with the clock and the youthful energy of the next crop of talented Brazilian stars.
What may work in Ronaldinho’s favor is the surprising lack of stars currently at his position as attacking midfielder, playing just behind the principal striker. The talented list of newcomers are strong where the Brazilian team traditionally has been weak – in defense.
The Seleção in the 2014 World Cup could potentially boast the young, dynamic and formidable center back pairing of Thiago Silva of AC Milan, affectionately known as “the Monster”, alongside David Luiz (currently being courted by Chelsea), surrounded by the da Silva twins of Manchester United at fullback and further fortified by the rock-solid, defensive center midfield pairing of Ramires of Chelsea and Sandro of Tottenham.
There are formidable offensive talents waiting in the wings of course, however, there are more question marks than certainties at this point. Kaká is seemingly fully fit and needs to reassert himself post-injury, Paulo Henrique Chagas de Lima (better known as “Ganso”), his potential successor, is coming back from major knee surgery, Neymar is only eighteen and like Ganso (21) is unproven at the highest level, Pato is injury prone, Luis Fabiano is already 30 years-old and both Nilmar and Robinho, although talented, did not have a major impact on the last World Cup.
Given this state of affairs, there might be a place in the 2014 squad for a 34 year-old Gaúcho, although his reputation may prove to be an obstacle. Though he was the unanimous selection fro best player in the world during his time at Barcelona FC, he also earned a reputation for concentrating more on nightlife than football. Notwithstanding, home comforts and the added motivation of representing Brazil in a World Cup Final could be enough to refocus Ronaldhino and propel him back into the football spotlight.
Though Ronaldinho wasn’t able to convince National Team coach Dunga in 2010, he still has time to show new boss Mano Menezes that he still has it on the field. He’ll likely also be expected to set an example for rising stars, such as Neymar and Ganso, during the build-up as well as at the big tournament.