Ronaldinho at SWC - Parreira
Johannesburg - Describing him as "a very special player", Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira says "Footballer of the Decade" Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, known simply to every fan round the globe as Ronaldinho, is fast regaining his bewildering genius for the game and is set to make a dramatic return to international soccer at the World Cup.
An international poll recently selected the 29-year-old AC Milan player with the toothy grin as the "Footballer of the Decade" ahead of fellow-Brazilians Ronaldo and Kaka, Real Madrid's Christiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
And his record as FIFA's "World Player of the Year" twice during the period from 2000 to 2010 and playing a major role in Brazil annexing their fifth World Cup title in 2002 is testimony of the honour of being chosen as the "greatest among the greats."
Despite all this, Ronaldinho's career underwent a disturbing downhill slide over the past three years, resulting in a deflating departure from Barcelona where he had enjoyed his greatest years and the loss of his position in the Brazil national team as well.
But Brazilian Parreira says his countrymen are now "over the moon" about Ronaldinho's recent return to form in Italy's Serie A - he has scored five goals in his last two games - and expectations are high that coach Carlos Dunga will include him in the World Cup squad for this year's tournament in South Africa.
"Ronaldinho's decline was so disturbing," says Parreira, who is presently conducting a World Cup camp for local players in Durban, "that his absence from last year's Confederation Cup and other international matches was not even questioned by what was once an adoring media.
"Now that is all over," said the Bafana coach, "and Ronaldinho is currently the form player among the Brazilian World Cup candidates and poised to make his comeback in South Africa."
Parreira also debunked rumours that there was a personal rift between Dunga and Ronaldinho and said his captain when both were involved in Brazil winning the World Cup in 1994 was "too much of a professional to allow any personal differences to stand in the way of his judgement."
So, it would seem, South Africans are set for a special treat - in the form of the resurgent Ronaldinho magic at the World Cup.