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Juan Arango

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Is Ronaldinho Gaúcho Back?

Posted: 09/04/2012 10:34 am

Forget faith, motivation makes a man moves mountains. When a person believes they are good, they will perform. That is absolutely true. Now when you have to prove it, something else ends up taking over. That spine or chip that drives them to reach for something more; and in the process eschew the negativity or the ways of the past.

The thought of Ronaldinho even being on the national team radar just a couple of months ago would have been considered for many grounds for insane asylum commitment. His arrival in Brazil has landed him on the front pages of sports dailies and tabloids day after day. Now his comments of wanting to return to the national team could start to some controversy in Brazil, but at least for the short term there is a very cautious optimism.

Of course, at 32 years of age he does have something left in his tank.  The problem was the motivation.  If you really look at him, that part of his professionalism was on fumes the last six years.  His form struggled constantly leading him to depart on amicable terms over at Barcelona, thus allowing Lionel Messi to become the mega star that he now is.  That lack of motivation saw him briefly enjoy his time in Milan, with an occasional escapade to Catalunya.

His arrival in Brazil would make him the idol that confirmed that returning to some home cooking would be the best formula for the national team.  The big problem in that argument would end up being that Dinho would become the posterchild for Brazil becoming a league that was overpaying for players that were simply looking for a paycheck.

His mega deal was one of the first ones that truly started to make Brazil a league that was willing and able to splash the cash for the big names upon his arrival at Flamengo.  The big issue was that when nearly 10 percent of the country own over 80 percent of the riches, a salary like Ronaldinho's will always be reproached- and it was.

This year was not the best one for the former two-time FIFA Player of the Year.  On top of battling his former club for moneys unpaid from his contract as well as his unceremonious departure, he also lost an extremely lucrative contract with Coca-Cola after he was caught drinking out of a Pepsi can during a press conference.  Even his sponsors had enough of his antics by then.  The soft drink giant dropped him at a drop of a hat and his options were extremely limited.

That is why teams were being speculated, even the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS threw their hat in the ring, according to reports.

That is why many were shocked when he decided to go to Belo Horizonte and play for Atlético Mineiro, a team with a very proud history as well as a successful run at the state level with 41 Mineirão titles. At the national level they found itself mired in the middle of the table in the Brasileirão while suffering relegation as recently as recently in 2006.  Their history does have the inaugural Brazilian national tournament to their credit as well as three second place finishes; but those are memories that fans of O Galo (the Rooster) still cling on to and now those days of yesteryear are still a reality.

Last year they were able to escape relegation in the final rounds of the season and end in 15th place.

Ronaldinho was already considered burned out after he and Flamengo part ways and no team wanted him.  In fact, he was the most disliked person in Brazilian football prior to the beginning of the national tournament.  Various Brazilian dailies surveyed fans of several big clubs and  looking for a big pay day.  Many thought this was his last stop.  Fast forward almost four months and no one thought that this club would be top of the table for well over two months and they have been able to take on all teams that are in their immediate pursuit.

Atlético are in the middle of a 13-match unbeaten streak that includes wins over Grêmio, Internacional, Santos, Vasco as well as draws against Fluminense and Cruzeiro. Ronaldinho is currently the second leading scorer on the team with five goals and he has a new sense of purpose.



Now with all the hoopla and all that Ronaldinho was jabbering about will be measured and the national team will be dissected.

"Dinho could do that."

Let's remember that Mano Menezes is already on a short leash with two failures under his belt.  But is he back? I am not sure if I would go that far as that.  He still has to show more simply because his down moments have been much more disastrously memorable and fresher in the collective memory.  His recent run of form is to be commended, but we are just beginning the second half of the Brasileirão season.  Fluminense had their greatest-ever first half of the season ever.  They won the Taça Guanabara, won the Rio state tournament and beat Flamengo in the process. All that succes for Abel Braga's side and they are still being upstaged by a team that was no one expected to even see in the top ten spots.

The race for a spot in Brazil's squad for 2014 is not a sprint.  It is going to be a long one.  A player cannot be chosen solely on his inspiration of just two or three months.  He has to show that his form has to lead to a title or to a deep run come round 35, 36, 37, etc.  It's not the fact that his track record shows us that when he is on top of his game, there are few that compare to him.  The problem is that his track record also shows that he still has to overcome the demon that is the second half of the season. Last season he started out gangbusters with Flamengo winning the Rio state tournament. He was able to score ten goals in that first half of the season.

The second half saw him fade away as he scored only four times and provided an assist on only one occasion. This is what Ronaldinho has to revert in order to see his squad continue to remain in the fight for the title that they last won 41 years ago.

Right now, so what if he's still supposedly throwing parties where the women to men ratio is 5:1 over in Lagoa Santa? Well, that was what many people were saying when he was at the apex of his career at Barcelona. Despite all that, he is still upon the right path that still has a long distance to traverse.

 

Follow Juan Arango on Twitter: www.twitter.com/juang_arango

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