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.

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