One of the club’s most celebrated players whose brilliance had an inspirational impact on a budding Lionel Messi, the legendary Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, more commonly known as Ronaldinho, has announced his return to FC Barcelona.
‘I’m at home. Thank God…for so much love and respect,’ he wrote on Instagram, to caption a photo alongside his brother Roberto Assis published early Tuesday evening in Spain.
‘Always an incredible energy. A meeting with the president and soon we announce news,’ added the 2006 Champions League winner.
Contacted for comment, Roberto, who is also Ronaldinho’s representative, was not allowed to expand further but said to me: ‘I’ll tell you soon, my friend. Good things are coming.’
These developments mark a reversal of fortunes for the 39-year-old in Catalonia. In early 2017, his post-playing future seemed to have been inextricably chained to the La Liga giants when he was announced in an ambassador role.
‘In addition, Ronaldinho will also be part of the Legends project, the team of former players who, through matches around the world, contribute to the globalization of the Barça brand and its values, and will participate in clinics, training sessions and institutional events, among other events organized by the club,’ an official statement revealed.
Last year however, the relationship became strained between the two parties when Ronaldinho voiced public support for then-presidential runner Jair Bolsonaro, a controversial figure in his homeland Brazil that is now the polarising leader of South America’s largest country.
The Blaugrana distanced themselves from both he and Rivaldo, a fellow member of the Seleção’s 2002 World Cup-winning squad and also a club icon, with spokesman Josep Vives stating at the time that FC Barcelona ‘defends civil and democratic values that do not agree at all with the ideals of this candidate for the presidency of Brazil’.
A year and a fortnight since Bolsonaro won the general election in its second round, though, it seems that bridges have been mended.
Thirteen years to the day since scoring a famous double against Zaragoza, where one of the goals supports the claim he taught Messi how to master the dead ball, Ronaldinho was congratulated on the news by former teammates Edmilson and Deco, while Rivaldo also ‘liked’ his post.
‘Welcome to your home,’ said the former. ‘King’ proclaimed the latter, next to a string of clapping emoji hands for one of the game’s most-cherished individuals.
Joining Barcelona in 2003, the goofy, fun-loving midfielder brought glory back to the Camp Nou after a dark period of Real Madrid dominance.
Clinching two consecutive national titles in the mid-00s, he landed Barça their second European crown in club history while also claiming FIFA’s World Player of the Year gong in 2004 and 2005 and the Ballon d’Or from France Football in 2006.