Ronaldinho leaves Fluminense in what could be the final act of his career
Well, that didn't last long, did it? Just two months after joining them, Ronaldinho has left his latest club, Fluminense.
The timing did not help. Ronaldinho came to Rio with the club towards the top of the league table but the wheels soon fell off and the three points picked up last Saturday at home to Goias were badly needed in what has suddenly become a battle against relegation.
In a context where little has been going right on the field, Ronaldinho's contribution came under a demanding microscope. He played against Goias but did little to help the cause. With little mobility and no spark, he was easily knocked off the ball and was substituted at half-time in what may prove to be a melancholy final outing in Brazilian football. It is questionable whether another Brazilian club will give him a chance. It's also debatable how much he would really want one.
The key was there when he was first presented to the Fluminense fans at the Maracana stadium in July. The presence of so many supporters, he said, made him anxious to get out there and show what he could do. That was the public relations portion but the truth was that he would not be training for more than another week. He was halfway through a fortnight's holiday period which he had negotiated with the club as part of the deal. Football hardly seemed to be his priority as has appeared the case so often since 2006, when his long decline began.
However naturally talented a player might be, no one becomes as good at an activity as Ronaldinho was at football between 2004-06 without loving it. Quickly, though, he clearly stopped loving it enough to put in the hours. For almost a decade now he has got by with the occasional flash of genius.
At his peak there was such childish joy in his own ability. But for some time now it has come across as jaded and cynical -- as cynical as Fluminense celebrating the fact that the short-lived partnership with Ronaldinho had fulfilled its marketing objectives. The club was using "executive speak" for the fact that a number of fans had been convinced into buying shirts with Ronaldinho's name on the back, shirts that may well never be worn again, sad souvenirs of a depressing chapter in the career of a once great player.
Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.