Ronaldo returns to Brazil, joins Corinthians

Updated: December 12, 2008, 10:53 AM ET
Associated Press

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Three-time FIFA player of the year Ronaldo joined the Brazilian team Corinthians on Friday, returning to his home country and ending months of speculation about his future.

The 32-year-old striker sustained a major knee injury in February that ended his time at the Italian club AC Milan.

"It's going to be a huge challenge and we are committed to winning," said Ronaldo, donning a Corinthians jersey at a news conference. "I thank Corinthians for giving me this opportunity, for opening their doors and embracing me during my recovery."

Asked when he might play again, Ronaldo said "soon."

"I'll have to show it on the field," he said. "Off the field it is only words, some pretty, some ugly. But football is proven on the field."

While the glamour and money will be considerably less than what he's accustomed to in European soccer, Ronaldo said he is happy to play in Brazil.

"I love football. I've been a professional since I was 15," he said. "But I only played one year in Brazil. I've missed my country and family a lot."

Ronaldo signed a one-year deal with the Sao Paulo club this week with a one-year option. It included a clause allowing him to cancel the deal at any time. Brazilian media reports said he will be paid $169,000 a month. At the height of his career, he commanded $8 million a year in salary.

Marcio Gobbi, vice president of Corinthians, denied that the club signed Ronaldo strictly for business reasons -- the team already has sold thousands of Ronaldo jerseys.

"Ronaldo isn't here for marketing; he is here to play," he said. "Brazilian football deserves the return of the best player of recent times."

For months Ronaldo has said various European clubs were interested in him: Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Italy's Siena among them.

For the past four months, he has been training with his hometown club Flamengo -- his declared favorite team. Flamengo fans regarded his signing with Corinthians as treachery. But by Friday, it seemed fans had moved from the anger to acceptance.

"He's washed up, you know. At the end of his career," taxi driver Bernardo Souza Pontes said. "It's not right, the way he left us, but it isn't a great loss, either."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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