Ronaldinho was at one point the greatest footballer on the planet. Stefan Kelly wonders if he’ll ever be that player again.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better return to the Brazilian league,” … “The focus is on winning the title, it’s a trophy I haven’t won it yet.”

These were the words used by the samba star upon his return to his homeland in the colours of Flamengo, Ronaldinho is clearly a man who does not lack ambition. However, his ambitions are not transferring to realities on the pitch at the Engenhao at the moment.

When using the phrase “be the same” I am not referring to the world-player of the year Ronaldinho but the player who can entice with his willingness, audaciousness and ability to mesmerize. It’s safe to say he hit the zenith of his career a long time ago, back in the days of linking up with Deco and Eto’o at Barca, but the rate at which it is collapsing is far too radical for a player of his quality. At the time of Pep Guardiola’s arrival, his off the pitch antics, poor performances and frequent injuries forced him to become the shadow of the man he previously was, this resulted in a switch to the San Siro.

At Milan he was a completely different player and was eventually shunned out to players like Pirlo and Seedorf amongst a,lot of younger talent, the San Siro was never going to be the place for him and therefore never was.

His profile remained extremely high throughout world football even after his move away from Barca. He remained one of Nike’s biggest assets and still managed to feature in their fabulous advert for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, this featured him using his talismanic skills to dance around defenders. It made him look like a god but the sad part of that story was that Dunga ended up not selecting the man dubbed “Player of the Decade”.

The following season at Milan was disappointing to say the least, in fact you could call it an absolute disaster for the Brazilian. His difficult adaptation to Italian football shone through, scoring 1 goal in 11 games and clearly lacking the pace that once made him so dangerous. Another move was needed for the once inhibited playmaker and the only way was down. Words can’t describe how happy I was when he decided to avoid a big-money move to Blackburn, watching him struggling to keep up with the pace and strength of the Premier League would depress me, in some ways it will forever make me remember Ronaldinho at his best when I think of the man. Instead he opted for the more romantic option, a homecoming to the nation that loved him for his samba style trickery and brashness, Brazil. He joined Flamengo after hometown club Gremio had to withdraw from the race for his signature as they lacked the necessary funds.

At the time of writing Ronaldinho has played 4 games, out of 8 shots has scored twice, and has laid on one assist

However, these are not telling half the story. Earlier this year Flamengo won the Rio State Championship aka the Carioca and to say Ronaldinho was disappointing would be an understatement, he seemed constantly uninspired and nowhere near living up to the inevitable hype surrounding him.

It’s fair to say Flamengo’s start to the Brasileirao has been an eventful one. Thiago Neves is quickly becoming one of the most exciting players in the league and fans also mourned as Dejan “Rambo” (or “Pet”) Petkovic played his last game for Fla. Most importantly though to the fans and journalists alike, Ronaldinho has risen from the dead and seems to be, for the first time in years, brace yourself.. playing well.

His scintillating performance during Fla’s 4-0 crushing of Avai displayed to the world how he still has the potential the world saw at PSG all those years ago. Scoring one and setting up one, he undoubtedly made all the headlines. This looks like it might have not been a once-off performance as the next week, he once again looked inspired against Bahia and scored once more for the black and red of Flamengo.

It may be that we will have to wait for his retirement farewell game before we see him in the colours of Brazil again but signs of Ronaldinho redeeming himself don’t look too far away and I don’t think anyone wouldn’t want that to happen.

If you enjoyed Stefan’s article why not follow him on twitter – or visit his website The Midfield Diamond

 

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It would be a travesty if we discussed our favourite Champions League finals on the podcast without having a look and providing you good people with links to watch these moments in history. So what better way to start your Friday, check out these superb games.

First up  -  Brent Atema picked FC Porto 3 AS Monaco 0 as his favourite final. The Jose Mourinho legacy continues before the move to his beloved Chelsea. Monaco can’t keep the fairytale going.

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Well we have a jam packed show for you this week. Starting off with analysis of the Champions League tie between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
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Andrew Gibney is joined by Scott Johnston, David Bevan and Eliot Rothwell as they dicuss this weeks four Champions League games – Chelsea v Man United, Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter v Schalke and Real Madrid v Tottenham.

Eliot gives us an excellent insight into the two remaining eastern european teams left in the Europa League – Dynamo Kiev and Spartak Moscow, we talk about how well Aiden McGeady has settle in Moscow and who the other players are to watch.

Finally we get David’s feelings on the new TV deal that will see English Championship clubs lose out on some well needed revenue.

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This week I am joined by Gav Stone and Ethan Dean Richards as we
discuss the four Champions League games this week. Milan v Tottenham,
Valencia v Schalke, Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk and Arsenal v Barcelona.

There is also an interview with Daniel Richardson from Britski Belasli
about the ADO den Haag and the Eredivisie.

Hope you enjoy the pod, comments, suggestions and just general feedback are encouraged. For iTunes of to download go here

Episode 26 – gibfootballshow podcast by gibfootballshow

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A meeting between two of the best footballing sides in the world, a mouthwatering match-up so let our guest writers talk you through it. In the red corner is award winning writer Sian Ranscombe her blog “From a girl who loves the Gunners” is superb. And she hopes her team can follow in her trophy winning ways.

Up until a few weeks ago, I think both neutrals and fans were largely assuming this tie would be a one-way battle won easily by Barcelona. Arsenal have been inconsistent this season and if they can drop points to West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, and let leads slip as easily as they have done, what chance do they stand against the mighty Barcelona?

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So the the news out of Brazil last night was all about Ronaldo’s pending retirement. I thought out writing a fitting tribute to one of my favourite players of all time, but then I looked at my good friend Scott’s site and he had already captured everything I wanted to say.

So go to his site and read a wonderful tribute.

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I have spent my afternoon watching the first half of the Total Larsson DVD. If it isn’t obvious it’s a DVD that shows you nearly every goal Henrik Larsson scored for Helsingborg, Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. It is an absolute pleasure to watch the man in his prime.

Something occurred to me while enjoying some of his best goals and I feel very very lucky. Although I had already been to Celtic Park on many an occasion I finally purchased my first season ticket in the same season that for a measly £650,000 Celtic secured the signature of Henrik Larsson from Dutch giants Feyenoord.

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The countdown has begun! Only five days now till El Clasico hits our TV screens.

I’m as excited as Robbie Savage when his monthly subscription to HAIR MONTHLY pops through the door. I don’t plan on writing any kind of lengthy build up, your not going to find any sort of tactical preview, anything that I write would not do the game justice. Can you tell I’m excited.

I had toyed with the idea of writing some sort of homage to Lionel Messi such is his greatness, like his old teammate Ronaldinho, Messi’s love of the game and cheeky smile as he dances past each defender is a joy to behold.

Hours could pass, many cups of tea could be drunk and I would write 1,000 words depicting the greatness of the man, the goals, the skills and so on and so on, it still wouldn’t come across how I wanted, so what better way to show my love for little Leo, and to get everyone as excited as I am for this Monday’s game, sit back, relax and watch a master at work.

I hope that has got you suitably in the mood for Monday’s game, maybe I should post a Ronaldo video beforehand, so I don’t look biased towards Barca.

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