The transfer of former World Player of the Year Ronaldinho to Liga MX side Queretaro last week came as somewhat of a shock, with little prior indication that a switch was imminent, but represents perhaps the biggest transfer in the history of Mexican football.
Ronaldinho, now 34, had no shortage of suitors from around the world upon the conclusion of his Atletico Mineiro contract but has chosen to move to the North American country in search of his next challenge.
Both a Champions League and a Copa Libertadores winner, the Brazilian will now set out in search of success on a third continent to add to his already bulging trophy cabinet. In theory, it is a no-brainer for the Mexican side.
The two-year deal reported by Reuters' Simon Evans, per the Daily Mail's website, will keep the buck-toothed magician in Mexico until his 37th year, by which time retirement will likely be on the cards. It is, then, probably the last fling of one of modern football's greatest players.
Paulo Freitas @Cynegeticus
Querétaro have confirmed that Ronaldinho debuts tomorrow night against Tigres RT @Club_Queretaro: http://t.co/jHkgtUuyJ62014-9-16 20:29:45
The good news for fans of the Liga MX club is that Ronaldinho is—for the time being—at least saying the right things when it comes to his reasons for heading to Mexico: He wants to continue to win titles.
“I’ve always lived in the same way and in each team I’ve been in I’ve done well and won titles,” Goal.com's Tom Marshall reports him as saying at his unveiling in Mexico City. “I hope to keep living in the same way and win a lot of titles (with Queretaro).”
Those who have tracked Ronaldinho's later career, though, would be forgiven for taking his words with a pinch of salt after an inglorious spell at Flamengo and an equally unpleasant end to his international career.
A brief recall last year for a friendly fixture against Chile proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back with the national-team management duo of Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlos Alberto Parreira, with the latter questioning Ronaldinho's focus, as reported by Xinhua news agency on ndtv.com.
There is a counter argument, though, to say that his recent career has also shown that he can still be an important player at a high level when given something to focus his mind. Following his woes with Flamengo, Ronaldinho was effectively written off by many in Brazil and responded with a wonderful year-long spell in the colours of Atletico Mineiro.
Ronaldinho's back was against the wall, and he responded in style, seeing Galo to a first Copa Libertadores title in the company of Diego Tardelli, Bernard and Jo. That success, though, would be the pinnacle of his time in Belo Horizonte, reverting to type somewhat in his final year at the club.
When he was focused, though, he was brilliant for the club. His set-piece taking remains at a very high level, while the open space and slow pace of the Brazilian game allowed him time with which to demonstrate his ability to open up a defence. With pace all around him, his pinpoint passing in and around the area was at times majestic.
Queretaro, though, should not expect miracles. Ronaldinho has not looked after himself physically as perhaps he may have and, as a result, plays the game at little more than walking pace. However, if they can accommodate a luxury player, he could be a major asset.
On the other hand, if they cannot afford to carry a player for long periods of games, Ronaldinho is the wrong man for the job.
Given his standing in the game, he will guarantee much media coverage and open up new commercial opportunities for the club, which is doubtless a major reason behind the decision to part with no small amount of money to secure his services.
For all his fall from the top level of the sport, Ronaldinho remains one of football's most recognisable and marketable faces.
Such publicity is great news for both Queretaro as a club and the Liga MX itself; that is, until relationships or attitudes begin to sour. As Flamengo supporters will attest, the relentless media coverage that Ronaldinho attracts can be less than beneficial to the club when the focus turns solely to his occasionally less-than-professional behaviour off the pitch.
That, then, is Queretaro's major task. If they can keep Ronaldinho motivated and play to his strengths over the next two years then he could be a real asset to the club as they seek to challenge the established elite for major honours.
Fail to do so, though, and there is always the risk that they become dragged into what can at times be the Ronaldinho circus.
Whatever happens, it will be an entertaining period for fans of the club, and his arrival will provide no shortage of writing opportunities for Mexican journalists.
For Ronaldinho, it is one last stage upon which to prove he can still cut it as a footballer seeking major honours.