Legendary Brazilian Ronaldinho will not be returning to Europe after all. According to reports, the two-time World Player of the Year was set to sign for Turkish side Besiktas, but has extended his stay at Atletico Mineiro with whom he enjoyed a stunning 2013. Having led his club to the Copa Libertadores title, the 33-year-old was recently voted South American player of the year in a fan poll, amid clamours for a recall to the Seleção in time for a World Cup swan-song.
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf had reported that Ronaldinho had signed for the Turkish outfit on a two-and-a-half year deal. The Brazilian’s brother and agent Roberto de Assis admitted that talks had been ongoing with Besiktas for more than a year but Atletico Mineiro confirmed the man known as Ronaldinho Gaucho has extended his contract at the club.
The player himself, who scored 35 goal in 70 games for the Belo Horizonte side, tweeted to the Galo fans: “I’m very happy to have one more year together.”
Ronaldinho last played in Europe with AC Milan in 2010. Adored in Brazil, there was consternation when the player was dropped from the national team by coach Dunga for the World Cup in South Africa.
After a glittering career at Barcelona, PSG, and Milan, he returned to his homeland to rapturous acclaim when signing for Flamengo and 20,000 fans greeted his arrival. A year and a half later, he left in acrimonious circumstances, cancelling his own contract in a dispute over wages.
In 2012, Ronaldinho was named in the team of the year for his performances in the Atlético Mineiro side which finished runners-up behind Fluminense in the Brazilian championship. He then played a starring role when the team captured the Copa Libertadores title last year. Atletico finished third at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco in December. Last week, the pony-tailed talisman with the famous (though now corrected) smile was voted the South American player of the year in a poll by El Pais.