Sport » Soccer
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Ronaldinho joins Kaka and Alexandre Pato in all-Brazilian attack

AC Milan is counting on a swift return to the top level of European football, now that Ronaldinho has joined Kaka and Alexandre Pato in an all-Brazilian attack that any club would envy.

Milan announced late Tuesday that it had finalized a deal to sign Ronaldinho from FC Barcelona, ending several days of negotiations.

Ronaldinho was due to be introduced later Wednesday, with Milan president and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said to be considering welcoming him personally.

"With him, with Kaka, and all the other champions, we must try to have a good season for our fans," Pato said Wednesday. "We've got to do more than we did last season and help Milan return to the Champions League."

Milan finished a disappointing fifth in Serie A last season and was eliminated by Arsenal in the second round of the Champions League. This season, Milan will play in the second-tier UEFA Cup.

The Rossoneri won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007, and lost the 2005 final to Liverpool.

"We've improved on every front. We have multiple options and formations we can play with. Our offense is a good mix of skill, experience and youth," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

"Ronaldinho brings a lot of enthusiasm and enthusiasm is just the ingredient we need to start the season well. A few years ago he was considered the best player in the world. Here at Milan he'll find the right environment to get back to that level."

Barcelona said AC Milan will pay EUR 21 million (US$33.6 million) for Ronaldinho and an additional EUR 4 million (US$6.4 million) if the Italian club clinches a place in the 2009-10 Champions League.

The transfer amount was considerably less than the EUR 32 million that Barcelona said Manchester City had offered.

"Ronaldinho: Miracle in Milan," read the headline in the Milan-based Gazzetta dello Sport, which reported that Milan will pay Ronaldinho EUR 6.5 million (US$10.4 million) per season.

After arriving in Milan, Ronaldinho was to undergo a medical exam and sign a contract through June 2011.

Ancelotti said Ronaldinho's arrival made Milan "a team competitive on every front."

"There's a lot of material and we can really do well," the coach added. "The club made a big sacrifice and got great players like Ronaldinho, (Gianluca) Zambrotta and (Marco) Borriello. The club should be applauded."

Milan signed Zambrotta from Barcelona, midfielder Mathieu Flamini from Arsenal and regained Borriello, who scored 19 goals while on loan to Genoa last season.

Ronaldinho scored 91 goals in 200 appearances in five seasons at Barcelona, and helped lead the club to consecutive Spanish league titles in 2005 and '06, and the Champions League trophy in 2006.

"Five unforgettable years. Many thanks," Barcelona said on its Web site Wednesday,

Barcelona daily Sport splashed "Ciao, ciao Ronnie" across its front page before adding "Goodbye to the magic."

About 30,000 fans greeted Ronaldinho's arrival at Camp Nou from Paris Saint-Germain in 2003.

The Brazilian's toothy grin and dazzling skills immediately won over the Camp Nou faithful, while his dizzying dribbles and visionary passing led Barcelona back to the top of the Spanish league by his second season.

But Barcelona's subsequent dip in form paralleled that of Ronaldinho, who was criticized for being overweight and engaging in late-night partying.

Still, Barcelona fans paid tribute to Ronaldinho on Wednesday.

"Despite everything, thanks Ronnie!" one fan wrote on El Mundo Deportivo's Web site.

Another fan suggested the club should retire Ronaldinho's No. 10 shirt "until someone else comes along that really deserves it."

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