Ronaldinho says goodbye to Milan

AP, Thursday 6 Jan 2011

Ronaldinho reached an agreement with AC Milan to officially end his contract with the Italian club on Thursday, clearing the way for his to return to Brazil


Ronaldinho did not announce his new club, however, and three Brazilian clubs remain in contention to sign the two-time FIFA player of the year _ Palmeiras, Flamengo and former team Gremio.

Ronaldinho said there is "nothing decided" yet regarding his future, but reiterated that he wants to play in Brazil.

"We reached an agreement with Milan and now I'm free to continue my life here in Brazil," Ronaldinho said.

In a news conference alongside Milan vice president Adriano Galliani in Rio de Janeiro, the 30-year-old Ronaldinho said he is grateful for his "wonderful" time with the Italian club.

Galliani said through a translator that he is sad to see Ronaldinho leave and will remain in Brazil until the player chooses his new club and finalizes his transfer from Milan.

Ronaldinho's agent and brother Roberto Assis said he will continue negotiating with the Brazilian clubs, but Ronaldinho's desire to play in Brazil has eliminated English Premier League side Blackburn Rovers from the race to sign the playmaker.

Ronaldinho had said Gremio was his first choice in his return to Brazilian football. It was at the Porto Alegre club that the playmaker started his professional career in 1998, and where he played in youth squads since age seven.

Outside the Copacabana Palace hotel where Ronaldinho gave his news conference, some Flamengo fans chanted loudly to try to convince the player to pick their club. Ronaldinho has said that he would like to play for Brazil's most popular club at some point in his career and former Brazil teammates such as Adriano have encouraged him to join.

Palmeiras coach Luiz Felipe Scolari also was trying to persuade the player, who helped him win the 2002 World Cup with Brazil. Palmeiras said it had made the best offer financially.

Struggling Blackburn came in as a late contender for Ronaldinho, but the player had already made up his mind about returning to Brazil to try to revamp his career, following in the footsteps of Adriano and Ronaldo.

Ronaldinho still wants to play in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and hopes that a successful return to Brazilian football will help him reach that goal.

The 30-year-old won consecutive FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 2004 and 2005 while with Barcelona and led the Spanish club to the Champions League title in 2006.

But after leaving Barcelona to join AC Milan in 2008, Ronaldinho struggled to establish himself at the Italian club. He also disappointed with Brazil at the 2006 World Cup and was not included in the squad for the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

He had been playing sporadically with Milan and after the New Year he was authorized to leave the team's training camp to travel to Brazil. The club will likely save money with Ronaldinho's transfer to Brazil because it will not have to continue paying the player's high salary.

Ronaldinho has been playing in Europe since he joined France's Paris Saint Germain in 2001, where he stayed for two years before making the move to Barcelona.

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