Xavier Margairaz and Ronaldinho, St. Jakob Sta...
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When players reach the latter days of their career, and have been plying their trade on foreign playing fields for the most of it, it seems quite inevitable that they should go on to finish their careers in their home countries or a league where the expectation levels are a little less.  This has been quite the case in relation to players from Europe and South America for years now (though it does depend on the standard of the player’s relative league to an extent).  Many players may see it as a way to enjoy the later stages of their careers, playing in a league which might not have the same degree of quality as to where they have been over the years or as a chance to play for their childhood team that they supported when they were growing up.

The Brazilian league in the past few years, has been going through somewhat of a renaissance period, with the attraction of players returning to their homeland so as to get noticed more by the national team coach, Mano Menezes, with the lead up to hosting the World Cup in 2014, and giving themselves more of a possibility of taking part in what promises to be a spectacular occasion, with Brazilians known for their fearsome appetite and reputation in football.

One of the players who decided to take this path most recently has been two time world player of the year Ronaldinho Gaúcho.  Ever since his last year playing for Barcelona in 2008, those who love football, have been waiting for him to rescale the heights he achieved in his early days with the Catalan club, and return to the figure which was widely reputed as one of the greatest players ever in the history of the game.  After moving onto Milan, where he showed glimpses of brilliance but lacked consistency, Flamengo came in for him, and give him the chance to play again in the country of his birth.  The move, at the start, seemed to be one of hope, with expectations not being met, and it looked as though that Ronaldinho would not be grasping his last chance with two hands, or to say better in football terms, with two feet, and those that had hoped he could return to the old Gaúcho, would be left disappointed.

However, after one game where the Flamengo hardcore faithful, booed and cheered their star player, and he was subsequently taken of the pitch by the legendry Brazilian manager Luxemburgo, there has been a sharp and productive increase in quality of performances, so much so that he has achieved his goal of being called up again to the national team, and has appeared in the last three squad selections of the Seleção.  The statistics in relation to Ronaldinho speak for themselves, and prove that he is starting to be the player of old that he once was.

In twenty six games for Flamengo, since he signed a 5.5 million euro per year contract, he has scored eighteen goals and made five assists, which compared to figures when he was at his most effective in his career look very favorable, and suggest he might have turned his back on his previous troubles, and is trying to achieve his ultimate objective and goal, which is to play for his country at the World Cup in Brazil, in little over two years’ time, an accolade which would be fitting for such a player as Ronaldinho and that would bring the curtain down on a great career.

This goal though depends on many things.  Ronaldinho will be thirty four years of age by the time the world cup comes round, he has though altered his game in the last few years, as he has lost that blistering burst of speed that he was known for, and therefore seems to play more as a striker, or in behind the front two or one these days, threading passes, and beating players with skill, two attributes that he has always been known for, and that in two and a bit years he should still have.  Consistency will be the key, and staying in shape, but he is in the right place at the moment to get noticed and therefore will need to keep performing well on a regular basis.  Age could be the defining factor, but if he is playing then like he is at the moment, then no doubt the Brazilian manager (Manezes or not) should have no hesitation in calling him up for the showpiece.

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Rodney is 29 years old from Northern Ireland, is a qualified Sports Scientist graduate at the University of Wales, Cardiff and qualified UEFA Football Coach from the Irish Football Association. At the moment he lives with his girlfriend in Barcelona-Spain and works there as a football coach at the Hristo Stoichkov football school and also as an English teacher. He loves Manchester United, and was very happy to break Liverpool’s record of League wins. He loves to travel and has seen most of the world but always wants to see more. In his spare time, he likes to improve his Spanish and catalan, play football, go to the gym, play guitar, watch films, read and have the odd game of pro evolution and pool. He likes to write about something he loves, and has a blog where he writes about all things current, including footy and travel: http://thedrawertailor.blogspot.com/ . You can also follow him on twitter @Rodneyball