Premier League – City edge ahead in Ronaldinho race


Barcelona have confirmed they have received a big money bid from Manchester City for Brazil star Ronaldinho – and that the Eastlands side are leading the race to capture the twice world player of the year.

FOOTBALL 2008-2009 Ronaldinho - 0

The 28-year-old – who has also been the subject of interest from Milan – will leave the Camp Nou this summer, with Eastlands emerging as a more likely destination than San Siro.

Barca president Joan Laporta told Catalunya Radio: “[Ronaldinho and his agent] have had two interesting proposals and they are leaning more towards the one from Manchester City.

“We hope to be able to resolve the situation this week.”

Laporta added that the club had taken into account “the interests of the player as well as those of Barcelona” when deciding on whether he should go or not.

The offer – reportedly £25.5 million, a new club record – represents a last ditch attempt by City to lure the playmaker to the Premier League and hijack Milan’s bid to take him to Serie A.

City owner Thaksin Shinawatra is determined to land his top summer target at any cost and is reportedly willing to offer a weekly wage of £150,000 to meet that ends – three times what Barca have tabled.

The Italian heavyweights were thought to be favourites to capture him after Ronaldinho’s agent and brother Roberto de Assis said a switch to the San Siro was “90 per cent likely”.

But following reports of a dispute over personal terms with the Rossoneri, City have moved quickly to table a concrete and lucrative offer for the two-time World Player of the Year.

Ronaldinho himself is currently preparing for the Beijing Olympics with the Brazil national team – he qualifies as one of the their over-age players – although Barca want him back at pre-season training at the Camp Nou, having refused him permission to travel to China.

Should a deal be completed with City, it would smash the club record £18 million spent on fellow Brazil international Jo earlier in the close season.

However, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported in its Monday edition that Barcelona, Milan and Ronaldinho – who scored 70 goals in 145 appearances for Barca – are expected to meet in Barcelona to finalise his move to Italy.

The paper reported that after a series of telephone calls on Sunday the Brazilian is returning to Spain from Porto Alegre on Monday with de Assis and will meet with officials from Barcelona and Milan.

Initially it was thought the player – who has not played since March 9 because of injury – was reluctant to be present at the summit following the Spanish club’s refusal to release him for the Olympic Games.

However, Ronaldinho will now meet with Barcelona’s technical director Txiki Begiristain and Milan’s vice-president Adriano Galliani.

“We expect that he (Ronaldinho) or his agent will arrive this afternoon to start talking to the club,” a Barcelona spokesman told AFP on Monday, adding no time was set for the meeting.

Mike Hytner / Eurosport / AFP
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