Ronaldinho says he's happy playing for Atletico
SAO PAULO (AP)
Ronaldinho says he doesn't regret leaving popular club Flamengo and is happy to have stayed in Brazil to play for Atletico Mineiro.
The former Brazil star made a high-profile exit from Flamengo after suing the club for nearly $20 million in unpaid wages, but quickly signed with less popular Atletico to try to revamp his career following heavy criticism for poor performances since returning to Brazilian football.
Ronaldinho said he is being treated well at his new club and was glad he made the choice to stay in Brazil instead of going abroad again.
''I'm feeling good here,'' Ronaldinho said. ''I've adapted well to the club and so far I've only had days of happiness.''
Ronaldinho needed less than a week to reach a deal with Atletico after making headlines across the country for his controversial departure from Flamengo. The club accused him of unprofessional behavior and said it would legally fight the player until the end.
''It was a difficult departure from Flamengo so it's good to be welcome here, it means a lot to me,'' he said.
Ronaldinho debuted with Atletico Mineiro on Saturday, helping the team earn a 1-0 away victory over Palmeiras. The former two-time world player of the year performed well and created many chances for Atletico at the Pacaembu stadium in Sao Paulo.
''It was great to start with a victory,'' he said. ''These players really want to become winners, they know the importance of a title to this club and everyone is motivated.''
Although Atletico Mineiro is an established club in Brazil, it has not won a significant title since the 1997 Conmebol Cup, a tournament it also won in 1992. It was relegated to Brazil's second division in 2005, but won the title, and returned to the top flight the following year.
Its sole Brazilian league title came in 1971. It was the national runner-up in 1999.
Ronaldinho believes Atletico will be a contender for the Brazilian league title this year and said the team's good start will be key when the competition reaches its decisive stages.
''We know how important it is to get off to a good start,'' he said. ''If we play well now we will be able to be in control in the end of the year.''
Atletico Mineiro won three of its first four matches and is second in the 20-team standings to Vasco da Gama. The team's next match is against the six-time champion Sao Paulo on Sunday.
Ronaldinho said he signed a contract with Atletico only until the end of the year because he didn't want to drag negotiations for too long.
''The Brazilian league was already under way, it had to be a quick deal,'' he said.
Ronaldinho became one of the most high-profile acquisitions by a Brazilian club after joining Flamengo at the beginning of last year following a decade of playing in European football, where he thrived with Barcelona and AC Milan. But he wasn't playing well recently and the club was having difficulties paying him the high salaries, delaying the payments for several months.
Ronaldinho helped Brazil win the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan and was in the team that was eliminated by France in the 2006 quarterfinals in Germany. He was not picked for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni