The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

Updated (3): Birkirkara 'close to signing' legend Ronaldinho, brother dismisses rumour

Thursday, 18 July 2019, 12:49 Last update: about 29 days ago

Birkirkara FC said they intended to secure the signature of Brazilian legend Ronaldinho Gaucho, L-Argument reported on Thursday. But his brother later poured cold water on the rumours, saying the former Brazilian star had no intention to return to competitive football.

L-Argument – a sports dedicated programme which airs on One TV – wrote on Thursday that they were in a position to reveal that Birkirkara are in negotiations to sign the star, and wrote that the possibility of the former Barcelona, Milan and Paris Saint Germain player coming to ply his trade in Malta is high. 

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Ronaldinho is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, and twice won the FIFA Player of Year award, while also winning the prestigious Ballon d’Or once, in 2005. Known for his sheer technical prowess, the Brazilian started his career with Gremio before also featuring for Paris Saint Germain, Barcelona, and AC Milan. At international level, he was also a key player in Brazil’s World Cup triumph in 2002.

Birkirkara's technical director Michael Valenzisa was reported to have confirmed the negotiations, saying however that the deal is far from being reached. He said that Ronaldinho's agents are keen to see him play with a small club.

Ronaldinho’s brother, Roberto Assis, speaking to The Times of Malta earlier today dismissed the news saying that he and his brother were indeed coming to Malta to promote Ronaldinho’s brand of wine and to play in a Footvolley tournament.

Birkirkara, however, maintain that there are ongoing talks. "Ronaldinho's brother has nothing to do with him," Birkirkara FC's Technical Director Michael Valenzia told Times of Malta.

"He was his agent but now he is being managed by a company. So it is his company who decides what he does, not his brother."

Now 39 years old, Ronaldinho has not played competitive football since 2015, when he turned out for Brazilian side Fluminense, with whom he played nine games in two months but failed to impress, leading to a mutual termination of the contract between him and the club.

Brief stints playing futsal in India with renowned stars such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and Hernan Crespo followed, but on 16 January 2018 his retirement from football was confirmed by his brother, who is also his agent.

But is that retirement now going to be overturned? If the rumour that Birkirkara are indeed close to the Brazilian’s signature, they would be Ronaldinho’s first competitive football team in four years, and it would be by far the highest profile signing that the a Maltese team has ever made.

Ronaldinho would not be the first internationally renowned player that Birkirkara have signed, assuming the reported rumours are correct; the Stripes signed former Italy international Fabrizio Miccoli in 2015 who scored the only goal in a famous 1-0 win over West Ham United in the Europa League, a tie which they eventually lost on a penalty shootout.

Birkirkara will be aiming to bounce back from a disappointing season last year, where coaching instability and lacklustre performances led to them finishing in 7th place out of 14 teams in the BOV Premier League, 19 points behind league winners Valletta FC.

Could Ronaldinho be the signing to bring some spark back to the Stripes?

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