Mexico: Brazilian legend Ronaldinho made a surprise move to Mexico's first division Friday, joining the White Roosters of Queretaro on a two-year deal. The 34-year-old former World Cup winner and two-time world player of the year had been without a club since leaving Brazilian outfit Atletico Mineiro in late July.
"I chose Mexico for the affection I have always received here. I am very motivated to represent" Queretaro, he wrote on Twitter. The former Paris St-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan player, whose full name is Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, said he would be wearing the number 49 jersey, sporting his lucky number.
Signing Ronaldinho is a big move for a club that was almost thrown out of the league last year due to a corruption scandal involving its former owner. The club also had trouble paying its players. It brings one of football's biggest names to the Mexican league, albeit a player considered by many to be in the twilight of his brilliant career after being left out of Brazil's World Cup squad this year.
Ronaldinho had been pursued by English non-league team Basingstoke Town, who play in the sixth tier. But the Brazilian great, who scored 33 goals in 97 appearances for his country, went another way. "I am pleased to share with you that from today, the star @10Ronaldinho is a rooster," team owner Olegario Vazquez wrote on Twitter.
"It strengthens a great team, the fans deserve it," he said. Ronaldinho joins the club as it fights to retain a playoff spot in the Liga MX 2014 Apertura tournament. Seven games into the season, Queretaro currently sits in eighth place, the last playoff place.
To sign Ronaldinho, Queretaro had to drop Uruguayan player Diego Guastavino, one of the five foreigners it is allowed to have under league rules. In addition to the World Cup, Ronaldinho's feats include winning the 2006 Champions League with Barcelona and the Copa Libertadores, South America's biggest continental tournament, with Atletico Mineiro in 2013.
He won back-to-back La Liga titles with Barcelona in 2005 and 2006, and added a Serie A crown with Milan in 2011. Ronaldinho returned to his home country in 2011, joining Rio de Janeiro giants Flamengo.
But he walked away from the club after a year over a salary dispute. He then scored 28 goals in 88 matches for Atletico Mineiro, leading them to second place in the 2012 Brazilian championship. Ronaldinho becomes the seventh Brazilian past World Cup winner to join Mexico's top flight over the years.
The list includes Vava, who played for Club America, Didi, who went to Veracruz, and Bebeto, who played for Toros Neza. Ronaldinho is also following in the footsteps of his brother and agent, Roberto de Assis, who played in Mexico's first division for the now defunct Tecos between 1999 and 2000.