Ronald­inho ‘feels the love’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

BRAZIL su­per­star Ronald­inho ad­mits that the smile is back on his face af­ter a dif­fi­cult few sea­sons as he leads AC Mi­lan’s Serie A ti­tle charge.

The 29-year-old scored a hat-trick in Sun­day’s 4-0 thrash­ing of 10-man Siena – his first tre­ble in Ital­ian foot­ball – to move Mi­lan to within six points of leaders In­ter Mi­lan. The Ros­soneri have a game in hand and play In­ter in the Mi­lan derby next week­end, mean­ing that if they win both matches, they will be joint-top.

It has been a re­mark­able turn­around for Ronald­inho, who was hounded out of Barcelona 18 months ago af­ter los­ing his way and his fit­ness. “Now I feel loved and re­spected. That’s how I go onto the field and re­alise my dream, to use all this af­fec­tion from the fans,” he said.

“This is a spe­cial mo­ment for my life and my ca­reer. We know we have to work hard for the scud­etto but this Mi­lan team can go a long way in all three com­pe­ti­tions.”

Mi­lan are through to the Cham­pi­ons League sec­ond round, where they will face Manch­ester United, and are also in the Coppa Italia quar­ter-fi­nals. But de­spite his hot form, Ronald­inho knows the derby will be tough, par­tic­u­larly given In­ter beat Mi­lan 4-0 ear­lier this sea­son.

“In­ter are one of the best teams in the world and they have one of the best coaches in the world (Jose Mour­inho), so we have the max­i­mum re­spect for them,” he said.

Ronald­inho will be vi­tal for Mi­lan on the left of their tri­dent strike-force, that cur­rently sees David Beck­ham to the right of Marco Bor­riello.

The Brazil­ian’s hat-trick took his tally to five goals in his last two games and nine in 18 Serie A ap­pear­ances. He’s also net­ted twice in five Cham­pi­ons League games.

It has got many peo­ple, in­clud­ing his coach and com­pa­triot Leonardo, be­liev­ing he can re­pro­duce the form he showed in his Barcelona hey­day when he won back-to-back World Player of the Year crowns, con­sec­u­tive Span­ish La Liga ti­tles and the Cham­pi­ons League.

“It’s nor­mal when some­one feels the love that he re­sponds. He’s en­ter­tain­ing every­one, he’s a great player,” said Leonardo. “He’s hav­ing a great sea­son, he’s re­dis­cov­ered his taste for play­ing well and scor­ing goals.”

BACK IN BUSI­NESS: AC Mi­lan’s Ronald­inho cel­e­brates his hat-trick against Siena in the Serie A last week­end.

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