Ronaldinho: Why the Brazilian Magician Should See out His Career with Atletico
The career of Brazilian great Ronaldinho has enjoyed something of a renaissance in his time in Belo Horizonte these past 15 months, culminating in Atletico Mineiro's success in the final of the Copa Libertadores earlier this summer.
The story of his return from the lows of his spell at Flamengo was repeated continually in the days and weeks following that success. I, myself, was among those who had assumed that the best days of the former World Player of the Year were long since in the past.
He has not returned to those levels and, it goes without saying, never will. But, he has been a delight to watch for Atletico and has delivered demonstrations of his extraordinary footballing gift on a regular basis at the Independencia.
In fact, his recovery has been so strong that the once unwanted star is now inundated with offers from around the world. Schalke were reportedly offered his services, per Bild (German). Besiktas were tentatively linked, per Sky Sports, and he has been continually linked with an MLS move for some time, per ESPN.
Despite the better money on offer elsewhere, and the difficulties that Brazilian football can sometimes present, Ronaldinho would be best advised to stay put.
Having remained this summer, he will now play the Club World Cup with Atletico in December. It is an opportunity for him to perform for a wider audience and one that he will no doubt relish.
But, having ticked the Libertadores off on his list, the Brasileirao must now be seen as the gaping hole in his CV. At Atletico, he has a great chance of competing for that honour in the next couple of seasons.
He has the chance to really make himself a legend at the Mineiro club with a prolonged stay over the coming years, and that is surely something that appeals to a player who has little left to prove in football.
However, none of this is the biggest reason why he should remain in Brazil. Simply, he would stand a major chance of disappointing elsewhere.
No player has ever been as fun to watch as Ronaldinho was in his prime. #fact— Stefan Koltun (@Stizzyy) September 12, 2013
Ronaldinho is playing very well, but he is doing so in the Brasileirao—a league whose leading stars this season include a number of attacking midfielders already well past their 30th birthdays such as Coritiba's Alex, Botafogo's Clarence Seedorf and Atletico-PR's Paulo Baier.
Fine players they may be, but the levels of influence they are able to still assert on games would be difficult to imagine in most other major leagues worldwide.
Where should Ronaldinho play in 2014?
Brazilian football tends to be very stretched, with a lot of space afforded to players in areas approaching the penalty area. Given time on the ball, all the players named are adept at picking apart opponents or shooting from range. But, in European leagues in particular, that space and time would not be given.
Ronaldinho, despite his excellent club form, has suffered on his recent outings with Brazil—including against a second-string Chile side who harried the selecao all game. Against England at Wembley and Ghana at Craven Cottage it was the same story—he was anonymous and easily marked out the game.
He has found a club and system that allows him to be the star once more at Atletico and, given his status throughout his career, he no doubt appreciates the chance he was afforded by the Mineiro side.
Having worked so hard to come back to the fore, he should ignore the approaches of clubs elsewhere. Brazil is where he belongs at this stage of his career, and Brazil is one of the only major leagues where he would still take centre stage at a leading club.
In all the rightful adulation of his recent performances, that fact should not be forgotten.
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