Ronaldinho training with Atletico (from Atletico’s official site)

I started writing a story this morning about Ronaldinho Gaucho’s departure from Flamengo that ended up here on Reuters.

But my first musings were this:

   The question for Ronaldinho is where he goes now. Most doors looks closed to him in his homeland because few clubs can afford his salary demands and fans see him more as a disruptive influence than creative one. One poll asked fans of Brazil’s top flight clubs if they’d welcome Ronaldinho in their side. Supporters at all 20 teams said No.

      Gremio and Palmeiras, the two other clubs who tried to sign him from Milan, have rejected any suggestions they might want to sign him. Both teams are still angry at the way he misled them in contract talks last year – Ronaldinho allegedly promised to sign for both clubs before jilting them for Flamengo – and neither could afford him or put up with the associated problems he brings.

Perhaps the most likely destination is one of football’s emerging markets; the Middle East, the former Soviet republics, China or even the United States. In many of those countries, teams pay top dollar and give their top players more freedom.

How wrong I was. Ronaldinho signed for Atletico Mineiro today.

They must be mad. Even though they are getting him on the cheap, he’s unlikely to reproduce anything like the form that made him the world’s best player two years running.

As Tostao said: “Ronaldo didn’t play like he used to because he didn’t want to. It was because he couldn’t. There’s no mystery. That happens with all athletes, some earlier than others.”

Ronaldinho will turn it on in flashes for Atletico. But unless he’s learnt his lesson at Flamengo and starts becoming a lot more professional then he’ll be out of Belo Horizonte by Christmas.