Tag Archives: ronaldinho

Jeremy Lynch and Billy Wingrove football freestyle skills

Flicking hell! Is this the best football freestyle video on the internet

By
Gerard Brand

PUBLISHED:

15:14 GMT, 28 February 2013

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UPDATED:

15:17 GMT, 28 February 2013

Never mind Cristiano Ronaldo's endless stepovers, Ronaldinho's dummy pass or even the Cruyff turn… England have finally produced the sort of skill that can rival Rory Delap's long throw.

Billy Wingrove and former Britain's Got Talent finalist Jeremy Lynch have teamed up as 'The F2' to showcase their finest footy skills, and the world has taken notice.

Choreographed: Jeremy Lynch and Billy Wingrove show off their sublime freestyle skills

Choreographed: Jeremy Lynch and Billy Wingrove show off their sublime freestyle skills

The F2 freestyle

The pair opened the show at last year's Ballon d'Or ceremony, showing more creativity than your average boy in his garden with his mate filming on a mobile phone.

As well as packing videos full of mesmerizing skills, flicks and even a few first-time volleys, the tricksters are looking to teach young players the skills they have developed over time.

After being inspired by watching a Nike commercial in 2000 with Edgar Davids and Denilson, Lynch won the hearts of a nation by reaching the final showdown of the popular reality TV show in 2008.

Lynch has also filmed videos with the likes of Christiano Ronaldo, Robinho, while Wingrove has been a professional freestyler for a decade.

And after South Korean freestyler Mr Woo toured the world showing off his skills for nearly two decades, there will definitely be a market for the pair to break into.

The pair's DVD 'Learn Football Freestyle' is for sale through their website for 9.99.

VIDEO: Freestyle duo Jeremy Lynch and Billy Wingrove show off their skills

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Ronaldinho to make film with Blackburn owners Venky"s

Venky's always said they'd get Ronaldinho… and now they've finally signed him up! (Sorry Blackburn fans, it's just for a movie)

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UPDATED:

21:40 GMT, 28 December 2012

Blackburn Rovers owners Venky's persuaded Ronaldinho to put pen to, er, ball when he arrived in India to promote his new film.

The Brazilian World Cup winner has signed up with their film arm to make Ronaldinho versus Aliens, an animation inspired by Space Jam, which starred Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny.

The identity of the cartoon superstar to work with Ronaldinho is still a secret but if Venky’s, who are also poultry packers, haven’t signed up Rocky from Chicken Run, they’re missing a trick.

Ronaldinho was one of Venky's most ambitious transfer targets when they took over at Ewood Park in 2010, and now they've finally got their man. It's a shame for Rovers fans that he won't be playing any football, however.

This had better not be a Blackburn contract... Ronaldinho (second left) pens an autograph on Friday

This had better not be a Blackburn contract… Ronaldinho (second left) pens an autograph on Friday

Meanwhile, the appointment of Blackburn's new coaching team is on hold as a simmering boardroom battle at Ewood Park threatens to escalate into all-out civil war.

The club's global advisor Shebby Singh and managing director Derek Shaw have been at odds since Singh's arrival in the summer, and Shaw has flown to India to urge the club's owners Venky's to ditch the flamboyant Malaysian following this week's sacking of manager Henning Berg.

Toon idol: The Brazilian star unveils a poster publicising his movie made with Blackburn's owners

Toon idol: The Brazilian star unveils a poster publicising his movie made with Blackburn's owners

Toon idol: The Brazilian star unveils a poster publicising his movie made with Blackburn's owners

Singh is said to be unperturbed by events but the plan to install Kevin MacDonald as head coach alongside Judan Ali cannot proceed without Shaw approving the contracts.

Ali was at the club's Brockhall training ground on Friday and MacDonald expects to join him even though he is understood to have reservations about the arrangement.

Ali, who is set to become English football's first British Asian coach, is better known for his role in a Bollywood movie.

Lionel Messi could be better than Pele

76 (and counting) reasons why Messi could be better than Pele…

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 12 November 2012

The swish of a left boot, a helpless goalkeeper getting neck ache as he watches the ball arc over his head, goal for Lionel Andres Messi.

Check it out on YouTube. May 1, 2005 is the date and Albacete are the opponents. A baby-faced Argentine magician, aged 17 years, 10 months and seven days, becomes the youngest Barcelona player in history to score a league goal.

As Messi bounced in celebration with cheeky provider Ronaldinho, who could have guessed that the first would lead to a flood and then a torrent

Scroll down to watch Messi's first goal for Barcelona back in 2005…

Scoring for fun: Messi punishes Mallorca on Sunday night

Scoring for fun: Messi punishes Mallorca on Sunday night

Untitled-1 copy.jpg

With each strike another record tumbles, which is not reassuring news for Saudi Arabia goalkeepr Waleed Abdullah after Messi grabbed his 75th and 76th goals of 2012 in Sunday’s 4-2 La Liga win over Mallorca.

Messi, 25, has nine games left to net 10 goals and score more in a calendar year than anyone in history, starting on Wednesday in Riyadh when Argentina take on Saudi Arabia.

His run of form reads 15 goals in 11 matches, which suggests it is only a matter of when, not if, Messi breaks the record.

Sunday’s double against Mallorca took Messi past Pele, who scored 75 goals in 53 matches in 1958 for Santos and Brazil. It also puts German legend Gerd Muller within his sights. The stocky forward hit 85 goals for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972.

the legends hes joined.jpg

The only way is up: Messi is on course to become the greatest ever

The only way is up: Messi is on course to become the greatest ever

Messi has already surpassed Muller in terms of goals per season. In the 2011-12 campaign he scored 73, breaking the European club record set in 1972-73.

In March he passed Cesar Rodriguez’s 57-year-old milestone of 232 goals to become Barca’s all-time leading scorer. He also scored a European Cup record-equalling 14 goals in the Champions League, netting a best of five goals in one game.

Last week he was presented with his second Golden Boot award and he is again favourite to win the Ballon D’Or for the fourth successive year.

‘Leo’s records are spectacular,’ admitted Barcelona’s Tito Vilanova in what has to go down as one of the more obvious managerial pronouncements.

‘It’s spectacular when you think that he scores so many goals. Few players reach these numbers in seven or eight seasons. He does it in one.

More to come: Messi is still only 25

More to come: Messi is still only 25

HOW THE GOALS HAVE GONE IN…

Lionel Messi has scored 64 of his 76 goals in 2012 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina. His mercurial left foot has accounted for the majority of his goals, with 69 of them coming from that side. He has also scored four with his right foot and three with his head. Messi has netted 64 goals inside the box, including 14 penalties, and 12 outside, of which seven have been free-kicks. Messi has bagged 14 braces and an incredible nine hat-tricks – including two for Argentina in wins against Switzerland and Brazil.

‘And most of his goals are great goals. We are unlikely to see another player like him and, if we do, it won’t be for a very long time.’

If Abdullah needed any further warning, then his manager is well placed to provide it. Dutchman Frank Rijkaard was once Messi’s coach at the Nou Camp and watched him evolve into the best player in the world.

Many things have changed since May 1, 2005, not least the fact that Messi is now a proud father. On the pitch, however, he continues to raise the bar.

At 5ft 6in, he is two inches shorter than Pele and three inches shorter than Muller, who was far more stocky. Yet, despite his slight build, Messi barely misses a match through injury. More records await.

and dont forget rival ronaldo.jpg

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Wilfried Zaha: Only Ronaldo and Messi are better than me

Zaha: Unless I'm looking at Ronaldo or Messi, I don't think anyone's better than me

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 12 November 2012

When Wilfried Zaha reported for England duty for the first time on Monday he was offered a valuable piece of advice. ‘Train like you belong,’ Steven Gerrard whispered in his ear at the team hotel in Manchester, and the young, slightly apprehensive Crystal Palace winger appreciated the support from the England captain.

But deep down Zaha already felt he did belong. Deep down he believed he had the ability to be in the company of Roy Hodgson’s senior international players. ‘Unless I’m looking at Ronaldo or Messi, I’d never look at someone else and think he’s better than me,’ he said in his first major newspaper interview.

Seven heaven: Wilfried Zaha is set for a full England debut

Seven heaven: Wilfried Zaha is set for a full England debut

'In training the senior players will try and smash me all the time'

This is the kid who spent 10 years perfecting Ronaldinho’s tricks with a tennis ball and he is now desperate to use them against the best possible opposition. Against Sweden on Wednesday night as well as the Premier League’s finest.

‘I think about the Premier League all the time, wondering when I’m going to come up against better defenders,’ he said. ‘I don’t think I’ve come up against a defender when I’ve thought “What can I do to get past this guy” If it was Ashley Cole I would be working it all out before the game, knowing he would stick tight to me. I’d drift inside and then run at him.

‘Maybe he’ll be able to deal with it, but that’s when I can test him, isn’t it That’s my time.

‘If someone’s on my back I’ll stand on the ball and put it in a position where the guy behind me can’t see it, then I can roll him whichever way I want.

‘Even when I played against Fabio in the Carling Cup last season at Old Trafford, I was so nervous before the game, but if I wasn’t good enough I wouldn’t have been playing.’

He was in the company of the elite on
Monday, training at Carrington with England and road-testing those
exhilarating runs that have taken Palace to the top of the Championship.

First glimpse: Zaha takes on Fabio as Palace beat Man United in last year's League Cup quarter-final

First glimpse: Zaha takes on Fabio as Palace beat Man United in last year's League Cup quarter-final

Selhurst Park’s secret is out, the finest player outside the Premier League has been promoted from the Under 21 team less than a day after his 20th birthday.

He is the best player to come out of Selhurst Park since Ian Wright, a wonderful blend of trickery, pace and outrageous skill. The Palace winger can play across all three positions up front but has been switching wings of late as Ian Holloway’s team strive to reach the Premier League.

Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson claimed he was simply ‘unplayable’ after Zaha’s performance at London Road won another three promotion points for Palace last Saturday.

There is even a billboard on London’s south circular with a giant poster exclaiming ‘He’s just too good for you’, in recognition of his remarkable progress.

‘In training the senior players will try and smash me if I try anything,’ he revealed. ‘One time against Paddy McCarthy (Palace’s central defender) I did a double touch, brought it back and tapped it past him — he just wiped me out.

‘I thought “yes, I expect that from you” and I don’t mind because defenders aren’t going to let you mug them off in front of their own team-mates, are they’

Poster boy: Crystal Palace celebrate the Selhurst Park chant saluting their star

Poster boy: Crystal Palace celebrate the Selhurst Park chant saluting their star

'I’m not saying I’m leaving Palace … but the Premier League is the place to be'

Zaha revealed he worked it all out in the summer, using a core stability and conditioning programme and combining it with long spells refining his mesmerising skills with a tennis ball playing with friends.

His development has been breathtaking as he operates at a different level to the rest of the Championship. Nobody can get the ball off him now.

‘Last season Guly do Prado at Southampton grabbed me and said, “Respect me”. I thought, “Why should I respect you I don’t know you”. Against Blackburn a couple of weeks ago, Colin Kazim-Richards tried to get into my head. He went through me and after that said, “You’ll have to be sharper than that, lad”. I thought, “Shut up, fool”.

‘It even happens before games now. Brighton’s manager Gus Poyet said Will Buckley is better than me, but I don’t see the point of coming out with nonsense like that. Even last season, when Ian Holloway was at Blackpool, he was saying, “What about your barnet, mate” because I had a different hair style.

‘When I found out he was coming to Palace I thought, “Oh no”, but after I met him I realised just how good he is. Now I don’t bite, I just keep my head down and don’t care. When I’ve got the ball at my feet I do wonder what goes through a defender’s head when the Palace fans are singing, “He’s just too good for you”.’

Wing wizard: Zaha has been tormenting Championship defences all season

Wing wizard: Zaha has been tormenting Championship defences all season

Zaha hears that every game at Selhurst Park and even the manager sings it to him in the dressing room after Holloway was taught it by the co-chairman Stephen Browett’s son, Ben.

Zaha is handling the expectation, turning it on in front of Arsenal chief scout Steve Rowley when Palace won at Leicester last month, and earning the respect of Tottenham’s Les Ferdinand and Tim Sherwood at Peterborough last Saturday.

Stoke City and Wigan were willing to pay 3million for the Championship’s young player of the year last season and Palace turned down 6m from Reading days before August’s transfer deadline.

Everyone inside the Palace boardroom knows he is destined for the Champions League, but co-chairmen Steve Parish and Browett will resist any bids until the summer at least.

Zaha added: ‘I see people criticising, when they are thinking like, “20m My a**e”, but I never put a price tag on my head.

‘I remember when people were saying Palace should sell me for 1m because I wouldn’t do anything in the game — that was hard.

‘The Premier League is where I want to go but I’m not saying I want to leave Palace right now.

Accolade: Zaha is presented with the npower Football League Young Player of the Year Award earlier this year

Accolade: Zaha is presented with the npower Football League Young Player of the Year Award earlier this year

‘John Bostock left Palace when he was
16 and playing in the first team, but he left for the first club that
came in for him — that’s kind of stupid.

‘Me, I’ve played over 100 games in the
Championship. (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain went from League One to Arsenal
and didn’t play anywhere near that.

‘I spoke with Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling and they both said the Premier League is the place to be. I’m not saying I’m leaving Palace but that’s where I want to play.’

Zaha is learning fast, coming to terms with the attention that comes with being marked out as the best Championship player.

On Monday Nike couriered customised boots to the team hotel with the St George’s cross stitched into the side panels as Zaha prepares for his bow as an England player. His family, including five brothers and three sisters, were booking tickets to travel to Stockholm to watch his full international debut.

At first he was fazed by the call from Hodgson on Sunday night, confused after Didier Drogba tried to convince him to play for the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

Word in the ear: Drogba is still hoping that Zaha will commit to play for Ivory Coast

Word in the ear: Drogba is still hoping that Zaha will commit to play for Ivory Coast

'I see people criticising me but I never put a price tag on my head'

Zaha was born in Abidjan, leaving the Ivory Coast at the age of four when his mother and father, along with his eight siblings, moved to England. He has never been back.

But the pull of playing for the Ivory Coast in tournament football early next year is serious. England’s clash against Sweden is a FIFA-recognised fixture but it is classed as ‘non-competitive’ and Zaha could still switch to the Ivory Coast even if he plays on Wednesday night.

He said: ‘Didier called me and I was shocked, to be honest. He’s a humble guy and he was just talking to me about the Ivory Coast.

‘I was born in the Ivory Coast but all I know is England. It’s 50-50 at the moment but it’s a choice I will have to make at some stage.

‘I’ve been with the Under 21s and, now that I am with England, I will have to make a decision.’

He has come a long way from the skinny south London kid who used to cry into his pillow at night when he was overlooked for the Palace youth team.

Versatile: Zaha is capable of playing on either wing

Versatile: Zaha is capable of playing on either wing

He was kept out by Nathaniel Pinney, two years older than Zaha and now at Carshalton Athletic.

Until
the intervention of Palace’s highly regarded academy director, Gary
Issott, he was almost released at the age of 15. ‘I couldn’t get
Nathaniel Pinney out of the team and it would break my heart,’ he
recalled. ‘My mum would come home and find me with my head buried in my
pillow and say, “Don’t be like this, your time will come”.

Pinney for your thoughts…

Nathaniel Pinney, who kept Wilfried Zaha out of Crystal Palace’s Under 18s, now plays for Carshalton Athletic. Pinney, 21, said: ‘People always said he would be good in a few years. Now he’s showing everyone what he can do. He’s always known what he wants to do. It’s difficult but he runs past players in matches like he does in training. It works. The England call-up is a bonus but he deserves it. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to play – good luck to him.’

‘I would invite all my family to the games, expecting to start, and then I’d be told I was close but not close enough.

‘My mum had always been good for my game. She said I was trying to play football before I could walk. I don’t know if I was born with it, if it’s natural. Maybe it’s 50-50.

‘I spent hours with a tennis ball doing tricks, little drag backs in my bedroom and watching YouTube clips of Ronaldinho and stuff.

‘I’d just try and pull it off… and then I’d do it for Palace.’

On Wednesday night, he will get the chance to do it for England.

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Barcelona v Celtic: How will Neil Lennon stop Lionel Messi?

How do you solve a problem like Messi Celtic take on football's toughest challenge

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UPDATED:

11:34 GMT, 23 October 2012

Step forward Charlie Mulgrew, Efe Ambrose and Victor
Wanyama – the latest contestants on football’s impossible challenge.

The challenge of stopping a player with 53 Champions
League goals in 70 matches, of keeping quiet a man with 201 goals in his last
200 games, of stifling a threat that has delivered 71 goals already this
calendar year – just 20 less than your entire team.

The conundrum of ‘How to stop Lionel Messi’ is the biggest
chin-scratcher in football and, on Tuesday night in the Nou Camp, Celtic’s Neil
Lennon and his defenders will be the latest to try and solve the puzzle.

Crowded house: Celtic would be well advised not to give Lionel Messi this much room in Tuesday night's match

Crowded house: Celtic would be well advised not to give Lionel Messi this much room in Tuesday night's match

Form of his life: Messi completes another hat-trick in Barcelona's 5-4 win at Deportivo at the weekend

Form of his life: Messi completes another hat-trick in Barcelona's 5-4 win at Deportivo at the weekend

They will try and stop what was once famously called the
‘passing carousel’ orchestrated by ten of the most technically gifted players
in the world. They will try and shackle a player who has more records than the
annual stocking filler hardback published by Guinness.

At least the boss isn’t kidding himself about the scale
of the challenge – ‘You are wary of being embarrassed. You don’t want that – I
certainly don’t want that,’ Lennon said in the build-up to the Champions League
Group G tie.

‘People say, “what’s it like to play in the Nou Camp
Well, you come off and say “I don’t know, I don’t remember much about it.” I
was too busy doing this that or the other.’

Lennon can reflect with enormous satisfaction on his two
visits there as a player. A battling goalless draw in the UEFA Cup in March
2004 against Ronaldinho and company which carried Celtic through 1-0 on
aggregate.

And a 1-1 draw in the Champions League group stage the
following season, in which John Hartson fired an equaliser to cancel out Samuel
Eto’o.

Right approach: Celtic may have to get as tight to Messi as Neil Lennon (right) and Chris Sutton did to Ronaldinho in 2004

Right approach: Celtic may have to get as tight to Messi as Neil Lennon (right) and Chris Sutton did to Ronaldinho in 2004

MESSI BY NUMBERS

In all competitions, Messi has 201 goals in his last 200 matches for Barcelona. He is one away from his 300th club goal.

Messi's 53 goals in 70 Champions League matches makes him the third highest all-time scorer in the competition

He has 15 goals for Barcelona so far this season and 71 in this calendar year. The latter stat means he is closing in on a benchmark set 53 years ago by Pele, who scored 75 goals in 1959

Messi has 11 goals in 22 games against British opposition

But with respect to the past, and to Celtic’s ability,
Barcelona now play at a level several times higher than they did then. As
Lennon acknowledged, you can be ‘eaten alive’ by them.

If news of Barcelona shipping four goals at the weekend
against Deportivo offered hope their defence might not be quite so imperious at
the moment, it’s worrying that they still scored five and, with great
inevitability, Messi got three of them.

The Argentinean is closing in on another eye-catching
record – usurping Pele as the player who has scored the most goals in a
calendar year (Pele got 75 in 1959 for club and country, Messi has 71 and it’s
only the end of October) and a few against Celtic will almost get him there.

The leading theory for sides trying to counter Messi –
and Barcelona – can seem scientific: Place as many immovable objects in the way
of the irresistible force. But the defenders of La Liga who know him best have
in their time come up with a few practical tips that Celtic might want to heed.

You know what you have to do: The task falls to Efe Ambrose to keep Messi and co at bay in the Nou Camp

You know what you have to do: The task falls to Efe Ambrose to keep Messi and co at bay in the Nou Camp

Martial arts Victor Wanyama could be deployed in front of the back four to disrupt Barcelona's passing

Martial arts Victor Wanyama could be deployed in front of the back four to disrupt Barcelona's passing – though perhaps not like this

FANCY A FLUTTER

FIRST SCORER

Messi is 7-4 favourite to score the first goal against Celtic with Bet365, with David Villa at 10-3. The first Celtic player is Gary Hooper at 14-1. Messi is 3-1 to score a hat-trick.

TO WIN

Barcelona are 1-12 to win, Celtic are 25-1 with the draw at 10-1.

CORRECT SCORE

You can get the same odds on a 6-0 win for Barcelona (20-1) as a 1-1 draw.

WINNING MARGIN

Barcelona to win by a four-goal margin or greater is priced at 7-4.

You might think taking a physical approach against Messi
is the one nobody has thought of, but the Real Betis full-back Javier Chica
says he has tried this – and well and truly failed. ‘You can’t foul Messi! Two
touches and he’s gone,’ he has said.

‘Better to try and make sure that he only receives the
ball with his back to goal and is unable to turn. If he turns and faces you, if
he can see all his options clearly, he is very dangerous.’

He may be an ex-Rangers man, but Celtic might also listen
to Juanma Ortiz, now at Granada, who recommends that defenders show him onto
the outside at all times as it’s more ‘unnatural’ for him.

Gonzalo Rodriguez, now at Fiorentina but late of
Villarreal, has stressed the critical importance of staying compact and
disciplined, while Bilbao’s Andoni Iraola says you need to keep tabs on him
even when you’re in possession ‘in case’ the ball breaks to him.

If there’s one man who knows how to halt Messi, it’s Jose
Mourinho. He has faced him with Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid – and he’s
also an advocate of collective organisation.

Special: Jose Mourinho masterminded a win for Inter Milan over Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League semi-final

Special: Jose Mourinho masterminded a win for Inter Milan over Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League semi-final

‘I am against man-to-man marking,’ he revealed after
Inter had beaten Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals in 2010. ‘We
defend as a team, in zones – one man alone cannot stop Messi.

‘You can’t say it was [Esteban] Cambiasso that stopped
Messi or that our midfield or our defence stopped Messi – we worked together
and played in zones.’

Another Madrid favourite, Michel Salgado, concurs. ‘The
best way to stop Messi is as a team. It is incredibly important to double up on
him at all times and you have to be as tight as possible as a defensive unit.’

Real have previously deployed someone like Pepe to roam
in front of the back four with, in essence, the sole aim of roughing Barcelona
up.

But equally, Sir Alex Ferguson had his staff compile the
biggest tactical dossier ever on Messi before the 2011 Champions League final –
to no avail.

Surrounded: Manchester United tried to stifle Messi in the 2011 Champions League final - but to no effect

Surrounded: Manchester United tried to stifle Messi in the 2011 Champions League final – but to no effect

And how many times have managers sent out their sides demanding
military-style discipline, instructions to flood the midfield and disrupt the
supply lines, only to see their well-intentioned plans torn to shreds

If anyone does have a watertight formula for stopping the
Messi express, then they haven’t shared it. Perhaps it’s down to guess work or
good fortune. Or maybe Efe Ambrose knows the secret.

In the run up to the game he said: ‘He won’t pose many problems
to me.’

Fighting words, but will they prove foolish come ten o’clock

Oxlade-Chamberlain sets sights on emulating his dad in Rio

I want to match Dad! Oxlade-Chamberlain sets sights on Brazil World Cup

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UPDATED:

23:03 GMT, 4 September 2012

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has a personal target in mind as he prepares for the start of England’s World Cup qualifying campaign — emulating his father by playing in the Maracana stadium in Brazil.

Mark Chamberlain was part of the only England team to date to record a victory in Brazil as Bobby Robson’s side secured a 2-0 win in Rio de Janiero in 1984.

Bring it on: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wants to emulate his dad

Bring it on: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wants to emulate his dad

While the win in the Maracana will always spark warm memories in the Chamberlain household, the clash will always be remembered for THAT John Barnes’ wonder goal.

‘It would be really good to play at the Maracana (like my dad). The only thing I saw from that game was the John Barnes goal and my dad celebrating,’ said Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is in line to face Moldova in England’s first World Cup qualifier on Friday.

‘I never actually saw dad touch the ball in that game! But as my dad played away in Brazil like that, it would be a good one for the memory book. Playing in a World Cup in Brazil would be massive because everyone knows how much the Brazilians love their football.

‘Look at all the players who have come out of Brazil; Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, even more recently with Neymar.

‘It’s going to be a massive experience so we have to make sure we get there.’

The 19-year-old Arsenal midfielder is set to gain a new contract which could see his 15,000-a-week wages treble.

Adriano signs for Flamengo

One more go… Adriano signed by old flame Flamengo and given pay-as-you-play deal

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UPDATED:

12:44 GMT, 22 August 2012

Former Inter Milan and Brazil forward Adriano has been given another chance to revive his flagging career after re-signing for Brazilian club Flamengo.

The Rio de Janeiro club said that the 30-year-old, who left Corinthians in March after failing to get match fit, had been given a contract until the end of the season and that it would be based on 'productivity'.

Once known as the Emperor, Adriano's career reached its height in 2004-05 when he was at Inter and was also top scorer for Brazil at the 2004 Copa America in Peru and the Confederations Cup in Germany the following year.

Deal: Adriano has been offered a contract based on productivity

Deal: Adriano has been offered a contract based on productivity

After that, he had a disappointing World Cup with Brazil in 2006 and his career has been going steadily downhill since.

Adriano – who has been beset by drinking, depression and weight problems in recent years – made only seven appearances in his one-year stint at Corinthians, scoring two goals.

Although his progress was interrupted by an Achilles tendon injury, Adriano was given several chances to lose weight amid reports that he had passed the 100-kilogramme mark.

The club eventually lost patience when he missed training in March and he refused to let the club doctor weigh him. His departure, officially by mutual consent, signalled what many thought could be the end of his career.

Comeback: Adriano's career looked finished but he has got another shot

Comeback: Adriano's career looked finished but he has got another shot

Flamengo, who earlier this year parted company with Adriano's former Brazil team mate Ronaldinho after he suffered a loss of form, have a soft spot for the player who was raised at the club and played there in 2009-10.

Adriano was the Brazilian championship's joint top scorer in 2009 with 19 goals as he helped Flamengo win the competition that year.

'I'm going to honour this shirt, which has always been mine, with a lot of goals,' promised Adriano, who has also played for Fiorentina, Parma, Sao Paulo and AS Roma.

'Thank you for everything. You can count on me.'

Can Roy Hodgson rely on Wayne Rooney – Martin Samuel

The heat is on… can Roy rely on Rooney's great expectations

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UPDATED:

21:51 GMT, 17 June 2012

At his first European Championship, Wayne Rooney was a teenager, his international career barely begun; at his next he will be a 30-year-old, his international career almost done.

There is only one UEFA tournament in between. This is it and he spent the first two games as a spectator. If England lose to Ukraine on Monday, Rooney’s European Championship career throughout his entire 20s will have lasted 90 minutes.

No pressure then.

Under pressure: Wayne Rooney (centre) returns for England against Ukraine

Under pressure: Wayne Rooney (centre) returns for England against Ukraine

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There are 22 voice recorders on one table in a room at Krakow’s Hotel Andel, a dais of television cameras in another suite, yet more radio microphones in a third and they are all pointed at one man.

Rooney insists he is resistant to feelings of pressure, but history does not always support this theory.

Whatever was going on, undisclosed, in his private life during the last World Cup tournament in South Africa, those inside the England camp had another, purely professional, explanation for his apparent unease.

Members of Fabio Capello’s backroom staff thought that Rooney had messed with his own mind in Rustenburg by feeling compelled to live up to his pre-competition billing.

They thought promotional campaigns such as that of Nike, in which he was featured beside Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery, Didier Drogba and Ronaldinho, had adversely affected his confidence.

He thought he had to justify that headliner status, so when England started struggling and he struggled with them, it sent him into a funk. Yet, looking back at the Nike campaign, with its slogan ‘Write the future’, nothing has changed.

Don't expect miracles: Rooney is lacking match practice ahead of his return

Don't expect miracles: Rooney is lacking match practice ahead of his return

The commercials centred around visualisations of the extremes of success and failure, what it would mean to be the man who scores the all-important penalty, or who misses it. And that is precisely where Rooney is again now, with the whole country looking to him, relying on him. England have achieved two solid results up to here, we seem to be saying, but now Rooney is back the tournament really starts.

No pressure then.

Yet, what can we expect of Rooney in the Donbass Arena on Tuesday night His last competitive game was on May 13 at Sunderland, since when his sole involvement in football over 37 days was 36 minutes as a substitute in a Wembley friendly with Belgium on June 2 when he looked, frankly, like a player who could do with a few games.

The idea that Rooney can just pick up where he left off after a month in comparative mothballs is a hopeful one.

He was out injured for 47 days before his first appearance as a substitute in the 2006 World Cup and we all recall where and how that campaign ended.

Seeing red: Rooney earned his ban for kicking Montenegro's Miodrag Dzudovic

Seeing red: Rooney earned his ban for kicking Montenegro's Miodrag Dzudovic

Since then, he has endured four
absences for Manchester United comparable to this one, rarely with
instant results on his return.

He missed 24 days between August 20 and September 13, 2006, then went 11 games without scoring. He missed 26 days between November 7 and December 3, 2007 and did not score for six games.

Better news from 2009 when, after missing 35 days between January 14 and February 18, he returned with a goal and then hit four in five matches.

Another 35-day absence between October 16 and November 20, 2010 brought one goal in seven after his comeback. So, most certainly, it can go either way. What is true is that no striker has ever felt sharper for playing 36 minutes in close on six weeks.

Rooney is reported to have trained well, but the hope that he will bounce back as inspiration for an unexpected tilt at glory only adds to the intensity around the game.
Certainly, manager Roy Hodgson sees it as a momentous night.

He will have worked with the player in training, been blown away as every coach is by his talent, and spent the last month conjuring images of how potent his team could be once Rooney is back.

Relaxed: Rooney with fans in Krakow

Relaxed: Rooney with fans in Krakow

'Don’t kill him,’ was Sven Goran
Eriksson’s parting message, after Rooney was sent off in the Swede’s
final game against Portugal, a solemn reminder that great expectancy can
dissolve into an overwhelming comedown when a player disappoints.

One might have thought in the circumstances that Hodgson would be looking to downplay Rooney’s return as an event, but not one bit. He has rarely missed an opportunity to trail this forthcoming attraction, so convinced is he that Rooney can be the catalyst for greatness.

There has never been any question that Rooney would reclaim his place, regardless of England’s performances in the previous matches — indeed Hodgson joked that the players would riot if he resisted.

He didn’t stop there. Rooney could change a game on his own, Rooney was world class, Rooney was special, Rooney was England’s equivalent of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Sweden or Andriy Shevchenko for Ukraine.

The reality is, had Hodgson refused to talk about Rooney until after Tuesday’s game, it would not have altered the sense of anticipation around his return. But it has still been interesting to hear a manager so willing to not just acknowledge the pressure being placed on one player, but to almost indulge it.

It is as if Hodgson sees Rooney’s status in English football as a fact of life and thinks the player either learns to deal with it, almost welcome it, or drowns. Yet there is no doubt Rooney is aware of his position in this team; only too aware at times. It is seen in his frustrations, in the inexplicable randomness of certain acts or moods.

In the spotlight: Rooney will be the centre of attention in Donetsk

In the spotlight: Rooney will be the centre of attention in Donetsk

It is a strange burden, brilliance, both blessing and curse. Ronaldo — Portugal’s Rooney, and then some — elevated his importance to the team to even greater heights with his performance against Holland on Sunday night.

Yet in previous matches here he had looked anguished as Robin van Persie did, his Dutch side exiting the tournament without registering a point. These are the players Rooney sees as his equals, and these are the extremes alluded to by creative team that came up with ‘Write the future’.

It is not easy for one man to shoulder the ambitions of a nation. England expects in Donetsk — but maybe, as ever, it expects too much.

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Ronaldinho joins Atletico Mineiro

Ronaldinho joins Atletico Mineiro after leaving Flamengo over wages dispute

|

UPDATED:

07:35 GMT, 5 June 2012

Two-time world player of the year Ronaldinho has signed a short-term contract with Brazilian top-flight club Atletico Mineiro, just four days after his acrimonious split with Flamengo.

The former Barcelona and AC Milan forward walked out on his old club claiming to be owed 40 million reais (13m) in unpaid wages and bonuses.

The player had said he wanted some
time off to take care of his sick mother, and most Brazilian clubs said
they did not intend to try to sign him after his recent poor
performances with Flamengo.

Show off: Ronaldinho wears his new jersey

Show off: Ronaldinho wears his new jersey

Introduction: Ronaldinho speaks at his unveiling

Introduction: Ronaldinho speaks at his unveiling

Atletico have therefore signed the
32-year-old Brazilian until the end of the year, with his debut set to
come as early as Wednesday in a league match against Bahia.

'He is not just any player, he is
Ronaldinho,' said club president Alexandre Kalil. 'I have a reputation
as a madman but I am not mad enough to turn down the chance to sign
Ronaldinho.'

Atletico, one of two big clubs in
Belo Horizonte along with Cruzeiro, finished 15th in the league last
season and have won the title just once before, in 1971.

Ronaldinho joined Flamengo in January
2011 and in his first year his goals helped them to the Carioca State
championship, and a fourth-placed finish in the league, a result that
got them into the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of
the Champions League.

Peek-a-boo: Ronaldinho dons his new strip

Peek-a-boo: Ronaldinho dons his new strip

Welcome: Ronaldinho meets his new team-mates

Welcome: Ronaldinho meets his new team-mates

However, this year they have fared
poorly in the state championships and failed to progress from the group
stages of the Libertadores.

Ronaldinho's relationship with the
club began to sour when Flamengo failed to pay him on time, leading to
last week's unsavoury departure.

He has said suing Flamengo was the last thing he wanted to do but had no other option.

'I
waited as long as I could, but it got to a point that it was enough,'
he told Brazil's UOL website. 'I decided to contact my lawyers and end
this cycle. I'm sad for the friends that I left there, for the fans who
supported me.'

Ronaldinho's new kit

Away kit

Shirty: Ronaldinho, suing Flamengo for unpaid wages, left the club for Atletico Miniero

Club officials claim the debt is
significantly lower – no more than five million reais (1.3m) – and
continue to fight their former star.

Ronaldinho's career has gone rapidly downhill since 2006 and his drop in form is often blamed on his partying lifestyle.

He reached his peak during a five-year spell with Barcelona, then spent three less successful years with Milan.

Ronaldinho also peaked early at
international level, helping to win the 2002 World Cup, performing
poorly four years later and being left out of the squad in 2010.

At the start of this year coach
Vanderlei Luxemburgo left Flamengo after a series of public
disagreements with the player who has also been criticised by his
successor Joel Santana.

Ronaldinho becomes free agent after quitting Flamengo

Premier League clubs on alert as Ronaldinho quits Flamengo over unpaid wages

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UPDATED:

10:22 GMT, 1 June 2012

Home boy: Ronaldinho has walked out on Flamengo over unpaid wages

Home boy: Ronaldinho has walked out on Flamengo over unpaid wages

Former world player of the year Ronaldinho is a free agent after walking out Flamengo claiming the Brazilian club owe him 12m in unpaid wages.

The forward has been with the club in his homeland for two years since leaving AC Milan, but on Thursday a judge ruled in favor of his request to have his contract terminated.

'His contract has been terminated,' Ronaldinho's lawyer Gislaine Nunes said. 'Flamengo has already been notified. Now we are demanding a very high amount in compensation, of course, which he has the right to receive by contract.'

Ronaldinho said suing Flamengo was the last thing he wanted to do but had no other option.

'I waited as long as I could, but it got to a point that it was enough,' he told Brazil's UOL website. 'I decided to contact my lawyers and end this cycle. I'm sad for the friends that I left there, for the fans who supported me.'

Club president Patricia Amorim responded: 'We didn't expect an attitude like this. Now the case is in the hands of our legal department, which will take the necessary legal measures to defend the interests of Flamengo. The club is greater than any person and it's going to be like this forever.'

The club said in a statement that the player made the decision to leave after 'missing practice for four days.'

The figure of 12m is wildly inaccurate, according to Flamengo chiefs.

Pedigree: Ronaldinho enjoy incredible success at Barcelona

Pedigree: Ronaldinho enjoy incredible success at Barcelona

'That amount is absurd,' said Rafael De Piro of the club's legal department. 'We will take a close look at the lawsuit before making a decision. We've forgiven Ronaldinho's acts of indiscipline during all this time.'

Last month, Flamengo's biggest fan group published a letter on its website criticising Ronaldinho and accusing him of being unprofessional for his alleged appearances at parties and nightclubs.

Ronaldinho was under heavy pressure because of his poor performances and the team's disappointing results this year. Fans and even team coach Joel Santana had been castigating him, and there had been talks about the player possibly leaving the club for some time.

The spat with Flamengo escalated on Wednesday, when the club's vice president of football, Paulo Cesar Coutinho, was caught on camera telling fans that Ronaldinho wasn't playing well and that president Amorim was going to suspend the player.

The 32-year-old Ronaldinho said he wasn't going to play because his mother was sick and recently underwent surgery to remove a tumor in the southern city of Porto Alegre.

'My mind was in Porto Alegre, there was nothing I could do,' he said. 'Now I will take some time off to take care of my mum. That's the most important thing right now.'

Ronaldinho's agent and brother, Roberto de Assis, had been complaining recently that the club wasn't paying Ronaldinho everything that he was owed contractually.

Italian job: The Brazil star also played in Serie with AC Milan

Italian job: The Brazil star also played in Serie with AC Milan

Ronaldinho became one of the most high-profile acquisitions by a Brazilian club when he joined Flamengo at the beginning of last year after a decade playing in European football, where he thrived with Barcelona and in Serie A.

He struggled in his first few months with Flamengo and was jeered by fans, but bounced back and was instrumental in the title in the Rio de Janeiro state championship in 2011.

He then helped Flamengo earn a spot in this year's Copa Libertadores and regained a spot in the national team, but began poorly again throughout this year.