Ronaldinho Gaucho Vows to Extend Career: Where Can Former Brazil Star Turn?

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportAugust 1, 2014

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All good things must come to and end, the old adage goes. As Ronaldinho Gaucho amicably parted ways with his latest club Atletico Mineiro on Wednesday, it was initially thought his career might have reached its conclusion.

Yet the two-time World Player of the Year quickly moved to deny speculation he is ready to hang up his boots, and he is once again on the lookout for a new club.

At 34 years old, this is likely to be the final move of a career that, while not left stone dead in the water, has certainly been coasting for over half a decade now.

Following varying levels of inertia at AC Milan, Flamengo and a rather tepid end to life in Belo Horizonte, where is left for Ronaldinho to turn?

He has precious few options beyond a simple pecuniary collection exercise. Brazilian newspapers have linked the former Barcelona star with moves to Qatar, China and Major League Soccer over the last few days.

Ronaldinho is one of the greatest talents Brazil has seen over the last two decades.
Ronaldinho is one of the greatest talents Brazil has seen over the last two decades.Rodolfo Buhrer/Getty Images
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The latter would certainly make the most sense from a sporting perspective, as the USA rides high on the wave of euphoria generated by their excellent showing at the FIFA World Cup.

But aside from that, nothing. Even in his own country, the once beloved No. 10 looks to have run out of suitors.

Only one Brazilian club, Fluminense, was linked with Ronaldinho, and their president quickly moved to deny rumours the veteran would soon be arriving at Laranjeiras, as reported by Renato Mauricio Prado on Oglobo.com (link in Portuguese).

Indeed, with one of the strongest midfields in the Campeonato Brasileiro, comprising the likes of Jean, Cicero, Wagner and Dario Conca, it is hard to see where Ronaldinho would even fit in at the 2012 champions.

Right now, it is all a little underwhelming. He may be past his best, but there should surely be something still left in the tank, especially when you take into consideration the lethargic pace domestic Brazilian football is played at.

Ronaldinho was twice named World Player of the Year while at Barcelona.
Ronaldinho was twice named World Player of the Year while at Barcelona.Luis Bagu/Getty Images

The bitter irony is that, as Ronaldinho vows to continue playing, in many ways his career came to an end many moons ago. The swashbuckling attacker at Camp Nou, the unpredictable skill and creativity that made him the planet's finest player, has rarely been seen since.

Following further disappointment at Milan, he found himself at Brazil's biggest club, Flamengo, in January 2011. This was supposed to be the beginning of a wonderful marriage.

While raising the club's global profile, the Selecao playmaker would bring success to the six-time Campeonato Brasileiro champions. But consistent with the second act of his career, there were only glimpses of the genius beneath the surface of what was fast becoming akin to a travelling circus act.

Forty-five minutes. That was the amount of time, in 18 months with the Gavea outfit, that Flamengo got their money's worth out of Ronaldinho.

The contest will go down in the annals as one of the best this century has seen. Santos 4-5 Flamengo, the great battle between the young pretender, Neymar, and the aged veteran, Ronaldinho.

The veteran came out on top.

It was a strike in this game that saw Neymar awarded the Puskas prize for best goal of the year. Ronaldinho, like a petulant child not prepared to share the limelight with a new-born infant, responded in kind.

He came out all guns blazing in the second half, netting two late goals to complete his hat-trick and engineer the turnaround from a 3-0 deficit for Flamengo. But the disintegration of his relationship with coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo saw both leave the club in the early months of 2012, and the midfielder made the somewhat surprising switch to Atletico Mineiro.

Paired with youngster Bernard, he led the Minas Gerais club to second place in the 2012 Brasileiro until his greatest moment in domestic Brazilian football: lifting the 2013 Copa Libertadores.

With that triumph, it looked like Ronaldinho was set for a date with destiny, and the man who ended his Barcelona career, Pep Guardiola. But Atletico were eliminated by Moroccan club Raja Casablanca in the FIFA World Club Cup in December.

This year has seen the player's stock fall further. Ronaldinho has been more widely known for appearing in a music video boasting of owning enough money to get very drunk rather than any achievements on the field.

He at least managed to end on a high with Atletico, winning the ReCopa Sul-Americana last week after victory over Argentinian club Lanus.

The 34-year-old's agent said that Ronaldinho will reveal his next move in his final press conference next week. Wherever it is, you can be sure of one thing. No one is paying for Ronaldinho the player anymore. All you get is the caricature.

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