One of the greatest players in football’s modern era, Ronaldinho has done it all and won it all in his 14-year professional career.
With Copa America and World Cup glory for the Selecao, as well as Champions League, Serie ‘A’ and La Liga honours during a distinguished spell in Europe, it’s hard to wonder what else the 32-year-old has to play for.
A spell in the Premier League, perhaps? More pressingly, a place in the national team squad during the build-up to the 2014 World Cup in his homeland. With 94 international caps to his name, a century isn’t far away for the former Gremio starlet either.
But what was that about a spell in the Premier League? Having played for the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan, the flamboyant playmaker has enjoyed the high life at some of world football’s greatest clubs.
Indeed, Ronaldinho is credited with transforming the fortunes of Barca when he moved to the Nou Camp in 2003 – the same time David Beckham joined Real Madrid but failed to win a major trophy until his final year at the club.
I digress, because the point I was trying to make is that Ronaldinho has played for great clubs, but never a team in the English top flight. Could it still happen? Perhaps, he thinks. It almost did once before.
“At the time (January 2011), my brother talked to a lot of people in England, and some clubs were interested. I don’t know who, exactly, but he told me that there were some clubs who sought him out to know if I would be interested in playing in England,” he told the August edition of FourFourTwo.
“I always imagined playing one day in England – not a specific club, but I imagined playing in the English league because of the way that it’s played. It’s very offensive – there are a lot of attacks in almost all the games. It’s the type of league I like to watch on television.”
Time is running out for Ronaldinho though, who returned to Brazil in 2011 with Flamengo, and then moved to Atletico Mineiro in June after a dispute about pay.
However, his contract only runs for six-months, opening the door to a potential January move. And, a return to Europe is definitely an option, in the mind of the player at least.
“There’s still time to go back to Europe! I’m very happy here…but I still see myself as young and I feel really good, so it could be that one day I go back to play in Europe.”
If Ronaldinho returned to Brazil to get back in the international fold, he would have to consider whether moving away from his homeland would once again hamper his chances at international level. Would Mano Menezes still want him involved at Brazil 2014?
Probably, yes. Ronaldinho has shown himself to be an experienced and influential figure to some of the younger players in the squad since returning, and moving back to Europe would not change that fact.
Wages would obviously be an issue for some clubs, leaving a select group at the very top to wonder what value the attacking midfielder might add to the squad.
Manchester United have been interested in the past, and Ronaldinho would add a marketability factor in South America that the club has never had, even with the likes of Anderson and the Da Silva brothers.
Manchester City, keen to usurp United both on the pitch and off it, will be well aware of Ronaldinho’s potential value. He could take the club to the next level in terms of global fan base, much like Robinho was supposed to before him.
Chelsea already have a Brazilian connection, with David Luiz and Ramires in their ranks, and they would help Ronaldinho settle in England.
He’s used to life in capital cities, after his spells in Paris and Milan, and owner Roman Abramovich likes a big name on the books at Stamford Bridge.
It’s hard to see new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers taking on Ronaldinho in any capacity at Anfield, irrespective of the huge global brand that the 32-year-old brings with him. As the Andy Carroll saga has shown, if you don’t fit the system, your surplus to requirements.
Arsene Wenger is renowned for finding top young talent and nurturing them into stars of the future. A move for Ronaldinho would be the exact opposite, and whilst his experience might be a major positive, ‘the professor’ is unlikely to gamble on such a veteran at Arsenal.
And what about Spurs, the last of the elite six who could legitimately offer the money such a player would demand. Andre Villas-Boas has his eyes on one samba star – Hulk – but Ronaldinho would be a big shock from a manager who was ‘out with the old, in with the new’ during his time with the Blues.
Much will depend on how the clubs start the 2012/13 campaign. If a player with the ‘x factor’ is needed for that vital push to the Champions League, then Ronaldinho might just be that man. Only time will tell.