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Brazil’s Ronaldinho confirms retirement and plans farewell

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SAO PAULO (AP) World Cup and 2005 Ballon D’Or winner Ronaldinho confirmed on Wednesday his retirement from football. The 37-year-old’s last professional football match was in 2015 for Brazil’s Fluminense.

The Brazilian’s brother and agent announced the player’s decision on Tuesday. Ronaldinho confirmed the decision one day later in an Instagram post.

“After almost three decades dedicated to football, I say goodbye to my biggest dream. A fulfilled dream,” the playmaker said. “I did what I love the most as a professional for 20 years and another 10 years in the academy. I lived this child’s dream intensely.”

Obrigado Sr. meu Deus, por esta vida que me deste, família, amigos e minha primeira profissão!!! Após quase três décadas dedicadas ao futebol, me despeço do meu maior sonho, sonho realizado!!! Fiz o que mais amei profissionalmente por 20 anos, e 10 como formação de base. Vivi intensamente este sonho de criança, cada instante, viagens, vitórias, derrotas, a resenha, hino nacional, a caminhada no túnel, vestiário, entrada em campo, as chuteiras que usei, as bolas boas e ruins, homenagens que ganhei, os craques que joguei, os que admirei e joguei e os que só joguei no play, mas admiro até hoje! Enfim tudo foi incrível!!! Meu pai e minha família me apoiaram muito pra chegar até aqui, foi um trabalho em equipe. Chegamos ao fim da primeira etapa com uma história bonita pra contar… Vocês me conhecem, e sabem bem que sou tímido e não tenho o costume de falar muito, mas tenho que dizer a vocês muito obrigado, de coração, de alma lavada, pois fiz o que amo com a ajuda de todos, treinadores, preparadores, comissões inteiras, dirigentes, torcida a favor e contra, o motorista do ônibus, o roupeiro, o gandula, o árbitro e a imprensa. Obrigado, construímos juntos esta história, sem vocês nada seria possível… No mês de março faremos um anúncio de como será esta despedida e os próximos passos. Por enquanto, aqui vai meu muito obrigado ⚽. Aquela frase famosa “gracias vieja” por ser a minha fonte de inspiração por tanto tempo e companheiros de muitas vitórias!!! Obrigado a todos pelas mensagens e carinho!!! Um abraço forte, fui muito feliz fazendo deste esporte a minha vida e profissão.

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Ronaldinho, who had his best club moments at Barcelona, thanked teammates, coaches and fans for his career. He also praised the football with a reference to Real Madrid’s legendary player Alfredo di Stefano (1926-2014).

“Thanks, old woman, for being my biggest source of inspiration for so long,” Ronaldinho said.

“You know me and you know that I am shy, I am not used to speaking much. But thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”

Ronaldinho said he will announce details of the farewell in March.

On Tuesday his agent Roberto Assis told the Associated Press that Ronaldinho’s plans include being a football ambassador for Barcelona, doing charity and working with music.

Ronaldinho’s decorated career also includes one Champions League victory with Barcelona in 2006 and two FIFA player of the year Awards in 2004 and 2005.

He played 101 matches and scored 35 goals for Brazil from 1997 to 2013. At the Camp Nou, Ronaldinho was an integral member of a squad that took Barca back to the limelight. The Brazilian played 207 games for the Catalans and gave 94 goals and 61 assists to the team.

Ronaldinho’s club career also includes Gremio, Flamengo and Atletico Mineiro in Brazil, Paris Saint-Germain in France, AC Milan in Italy and Queretaro in Mexico.

Several clubs and players around the world are still praising Ronaldinho for his football legacy, including his former teammate and protegee Lionel Messi.

“I learned a lot by your side. I’ll forever be grateful to you for making everything so easy when I joined the first team,” Messi said in his social media channels.

“I was lucky enough to share many things with you and I’m really happy about that because, as well as being a star out on the pitch, you’re an excellent person and that’s the most important thing. Although you’ve decided to retire, football will never forget your smile,” the Argentine said.

Three-time World Cup winner Pele also gave praise to the retiree.

“You brought a smile to everyone’s face, Ronaldinho. I hope you glide through life, like you glided through tackles,” Pele said.

Brazilian player out for 8 months after bar fight with fans

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) A 21-year-old Brazilian soccer player will undergo knee surgery and be sidelined for eight months after being involved in a bar fight with fans of a rival club.

Fluminense midfielder Marquinhos Calazans was already recovering from an operation on his right knee when he clashed with Flamengo supporters in a Rio de Janeiro bar.

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Fluminense doctor Michael Simoni told ESPN Brazil on Tuesday that Calazans’ injured knee was stepped on during the brawl and the player will need to undergo another procedure.

Calazans’ first injury came in September and he was expected to be back in action in March. The new surgery is expected to take place in the coming days.

Calazans, who played 24 matches for Fluminense in 2017, has not commented on the incident.

No surgery for Gabriel Jesus after MCL injury

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Gabriel Jesus has missed significant time for Manchester City before, and the Premier League leaders are waiting to find out whether his second injury will keep him out just as long.

Jesus, 20, was led off the pitch in City’s 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace at the weekend with what has been reported as an MCL injury. Pep Guardiola had said City would be looking at 1-2 months out, though the club says he needs further tests to determine the length of his absence.

UPDATE: Jesus issued a statement Monday night saying he will not need surgery.

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With 10 goals and four assists in 27 appearances across all competitions, Jesus has been a key part of City’s fantastic season despite his young age. This after putting up an almost absurd seven goals and five assists in 11 apps last season.

Those figures would’ve been even more wild had Jesus not missed two months with a broken foot last season, returning to score four goals and three assists in his last five PL matches.

Report: Coutinho close to signing with Barcelona in January

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Transfer season is right around the corner once again, and a name that was widely discussed during the summer appears close to finally making his move out of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Man City survives late scare from Newcastle ]

Sport is reporting that Barcelona could complete a deal for Philippe Coutinho as soon as the first week of January, after the Blaugrana missed out on the Liverpool star last summer.

The deal is reportedly worth over $167 million, which would be the second-highest transfer fee in soccer history behind only Neymar’s move to PSG over the summer.

With Liverpool set to pay a massive sum to court Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk this transfer window, the club could quickly recoup a hefty portion of its purchase by selling off Coutinho.

This season, Coutinho has lived up to the billing with the Reds, despite constant rumors of a departure from Anfield.

The Brazilian has scored 12 goals in all competitions, which ranks third on Liverpool behind Mo Salah’s 21 finishes and Roberto Firmino‘s 16 tallies.

Meanwhile, for Barcelona the addition would provide the squad with another talented option up front alongside Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele — who is expected to return to action in the new year.

The Blaugrana are one of two major European sides that have yet to lose a match this season, along with Premier League leaders Man City. Barca currently holds a nine-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid in La Liga.

Tite: 8 spots still up for grabs in Brazil’s WC squad

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SAO PAULO (AP) Brazil coach Adenor Bacchi, universally known as Tite, says there are up to eight places still available in the squad he will take to next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Tite told reporters Thursday that although he was focusing on “consolidation of the team… of course, there are openings — six, seven, eight players for us to confirm” in the squad.

Judging by his selections for recent matches, Tite’s biggest doubt is over the best player to take to Russia as an understudy for striker Gabriel Jesus, with Roberto Firmino leading that contest so far.

Brazil will play two friendlies before the final squad is announced. The first will be against Russia in Moscow on March 23 and the other will be four days later against World Cup holder Germany in Berlin.