Over 40,000 Flamengo fans packed the Enganhao stadium on Wednesday to greet Ronaldinho on his debut for the club with a mosaic that said “Welcome R10.”
In his first match for a Brazilian club for 10 years, Ronaldinho led Brazil’s most popular team out as their new captain for a Carioca (Rio) state championship match against Nova Iguacu that Flamengo won 1-0.
Ronaldinho, twice Fifa World Player of the Year in his prime at Barcelona in the mid-2000s, brought a save from visiting goalkeeper Diogo Silva with a free kick and was part of some slick moves.
Nova Iguacu proved tough opponents, though, and Flamengo had to wait until four minutes from time to score through substitute Wanderley.
“After so long without playing, I need to get rhythm, adapt to my team mates whom I have never played with,” Ronaldinho told reporters. “I have nothing but thanks for my team mates who received me with open arms and these marvelous fans.
“It’s one of the happiest days of my life,” the 30-year-old added amid the party atmosphere in the ground where Rio’s major matches are being played while the Maracana undergoes 2014 World Cup refurbishments.
The former Barcelona and AC Milan midfielder signed with Flamengo last month to and rediscover his best form at home with an eye on a place in Brazil coach Mano Menezes’s 2014 World Cup side.
Ronaldinho, who began his career in southern Brazil with Gremio before a first European move to Paris St Germain, won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 and also played at the 2006 finals but was overlooked for last year’s tournament in South Africa due to his indifferent form at Milan.