Ronaldinho on course for Pep Guardiola reunion

Back in 2008, Pep Guardiola took over as coach of Barcelona. One of his first decisions was to offload Ronaldinho – at 28, theoretically at the peak of his powers, but seemingly on the downward slope.

Five years on, Guardiola is one of the most respected names in the game. His Barcelona side set such immaculate standards that, after taking a year out, he could choose his next job from a position of strength. He now starts his spell with Bayern Munich, the European champions.

Ronaldinho’s career over this last five years has justified Guardiola’s 2008 verdict – his best days are clearly behind him. There have been times when he was waddled through games like a long retired ex-pro who has turned up for a charity match.

RonaldinhoRonaldinho played at Barcelona for five years

Then again, there have been occasional moments when he reminds you that he really was born with an exceptional talent – the way that he can kill a ball as if a suction pad is stuck to his foot, or a defence-splitting pass that few others could have seen, let alone delivered.

In the past 12 months with Atletico Mineiro, he has played his best football since those Barcelona glory days. And now his team are just a two-legged final away from being crowned champions of South America – thus setting up the prospect of a meeting with Guardiola in December’s World Club Cup.

First, of course, Atletico have to win their continental title. It is not a foregone conclusion. Their opponents in the Copa Libertadores decider are Olimpia of Paraguay, a team with tradition, resilience and strike power.

Three times champions, Olimpia are known as the cup kings, and a packed crowd in Asuncion will roar them on in the quest to build a first-leg lead on Wednesday so they can be crowned for a fourth time.

Like all Paraguayan sides, their marking can be rugged and disciplined. And an average in the competition of nearly two goals-a-game shows that they pose a threat.

Striker Freddy Bareiro is mobile and dangerous, and behind him Uruguayan Juan Manuel Salgueiro is cunning and skilful. When they need a goal, on comes big Argentine centre forward Juan Carlos Ferreyra to add some penalty-area presence.Image

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About chronicralph

A raging sports enthusiast.

Posted on July 15, 2013, in Football and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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