International Soccer
Ronaldinho's resurgence coming at a good time

Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Maybe it's because we haven't seen the flashes of brilliance nearly as often, or maybe it's due to the fact that his team has not performed up to standards.

Whatever the reason, Ronaldinho's hat trick on Sunday in AC Milan's 4-0 win over Siena once again provided evidence that he is still one of the most gifted players on the planet.

We saw the vintage acrobatics just three minutes into the match, when he sent a brilliant scissors kick just inches over the crossbar from the top of the penalty area.

He then buried a penalty kick with calm efficiency minutes later, and saved his best for the second half.

A quick burst into the box was followed by a pinpoint shot headed towards the bottom corner of the net, only to be denied by a great diving stop from the Siena goalkeeper.

Ronaldinho has now scored six goals in Milan's last three games.
However, Ronaldinho subsequently headed home a corner kick for goal number two, before unleashing a laser into the upper corner of the net from 20 yards.

The Brazilian has now scored six goals in Milan's last three games, and after an underwhelming inaugural season in Italy, he finally appears to be finding his form.

With nine goals and eight assists in 18 league appearances, the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year is a major reason why AC Milan is now poised to make a run at ending Inter Milan's four-year run of dominance.

The city rivals will meet up at the San Siro on Sunday in a huge contest with Milan trailing Inter by six points. However, the Rossoneri have a game in hand on Jose Mourinho's men, and a win would put them right in the mix with just under half of the season still to play.

Milan has not captured the Scudetto since the 2003-04 season, and it didn't look like this year would be any different as the team won just twice in its first seven games, including an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Inter in August.

But since that rough early-season start, Milan has won 10 of its last 12 games in the league to move to within touching distance of Inter, which has needed furious comebacks in its last two games against Siena and Bari to avoid defeat.

A lack of goals was the reason for Milan's struggles at the beginning of the season, with only four in its first seven games, but Ronaldinho has stepped up to lead the team along with Pato and Marco Borriello, who have contributed seven goals apiece.

It appeared that Ronaldinho was on the decline last season when he scored only 10 goals in 34 appearances, but according to him, it was never about his skills, but rather his disposition.

"I feel the love and so I am happy," he told Sky Italia. "I step onto the field happy and everything goes smoothly from there.

"I don't know if we will win the Scudetto, but we just need to keep playing well and having fun."

That type of carefree response indicates that Ronaldinho has finally gotten out from under the pressure he first encountered upon his arrival in Italy in the summer of 2008.

He was deemed to be expendable at Barcelona, a club that included Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o, so in a way, he was out to prove to the Spanish side that he still had it.

When things didn't go well right off the bat he began to press and eventually found himself out of the starting 11.

However, he was put back into the plans under new manager Leonardo, who took over for Carlo Ancelotti following his departure for Chelsea.

And like Ronaldinho, Leonardo believes that his star is not undergoing a great rebirth, but that he is simply more settled in his surroundings.

"It's right that he feels the love of the people here," Leonardo told UEFA.com. "He is making everybody happy. He has rediscovered the joy of doing spectacular things on the pitch. We must forget this talk of him being reborn; he was reborn some time ago."

At 29 years old, Ronaldinho has already achieved so much, but he is now reverting back to the smiling, free spirited creator who dared us to believe that anything was possible with the ball at his feet.

And if he is able to continue his scorching run of play, he will be feeling a whole lot more love from the Milan faithful.

Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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