SAO PAULO — Ronaldinho seems to be thriving again just at the right time.
The two-time world player of the year significantly increased his chances of making Brazil’s squad for next month’s Confederations Cup after a superb performance in the Copa Libertadores.
Ronaldinho “put on a private show,” as read a headline in a local newspaper on Thursday, a day after leading Atletico Mineiro to a 4-1 rout of Sao Paulo and a spot in the quarterfinals.
The performance comes just five days before coach Luiz Felipe Scolari announces Brazil’s squad for the World Cup warm-up tournament that begins on June 15.
Ronaldinho was in need of a good performance after struggling in his last appearance with Brazil’s national team, a 2-2 result against Chile which drew loud jeers from nearly 50,000 home fans in Belo Horizonte just a few weeks ago.
The high-profile Copa Libertadores match in Belo Horizonte attracted all the attention in Brazil and Ronaldinho took advantage of the spotlight.
“Another show by Ronaldinho,” read a headline at the Estado de Minas newspaper.
Scolari has hinted that he will pick between veterans Ronaldinho and Kaka for a spot at midfield in his Confederations Cup squad. And while Kaka is struggling to get a chance to play with Real Madrid, Ronaldinho is making the most of his matches with Atletico Mineiro.
The former Barcelona star set up one of the three goals scored by striker Jo and took control of the match from the start at the Independencia Stadium on Wednesday. He nearly scored himself just three minutes into the game, but his free-kick shot struck the crossbar as Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni could only watch.
Ronaldinho displayed some of the skills that made him one of the best players in the world while playing in Europe in the last decade. Near the end of the match, he used nifty moves to dribble past two defenders at once near the sidelines, bringing the Atletico fans to their feet.
Ronaldinho led Atletico to the best campaign among all 32 teams in the group stage of the Copa Libertadores. The team won five matches and lost only one, at Sao Paulo in the final group round, when Atletico had already advanced. Ronaldinho was heavily criticized at the time after saying that he “didn’t care too much” about that match because it was only a “practice game” for him and his teammate.
He said it wasn’t meant as a provocation and that he didn’t mean any disrespect toward Sao Paulo players, but when asked about it on Wednesday, he didn’t hold back.
“You see, when it’s on, it’s on,” he said.