Dunga: Ronnie smiling again
© AFP

A smile has returned to the face of superstar Ronaldinho following his transfer to AC Milan, Brazilian coach Dunga said Thursday as he prepares his young team for the Olympics.

Ronaldinho scored 70 goals in 145 appearances for Barcelona, helping them win the Spanish championship in 2005 and 2006 as well as the 2006 UEFA Champions League. However, after a dip in form last season, he was deemed surplus to requirements and AC Milan signed him last week for an estimated 30 million dollars.

Olympic coach Dunga, who is also coach of the national team, said the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year finally seemed happy. "Ronaldinho is a very important member of our squad and he is recovering from his problems," he said here, where Brazil are training ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

"The most important thing is that he is happy and is smiling again. That's made things easier for us. Of course the squad cannot put all the responsibility on his shoulders even though he is so important. What the team will do is support him. Hopefully he will play well."

The 28-year-old is one of Dunga's over-age players for the Olympics. Barcelona had initially refused to release him but AC Milan gave the go-ahead and the Games will provide a global platform for him to once again shine. At international level he has yet to recover from his anti-climactic performance at the FIFA World Cup™ in Germany in 2006, and since then he has seen new Milan teammate Kaka usurp his position as Brazil's main threat.

However, 26-year-old Kaka, linked with a move to Chelsea this week, will not be in Beijing after the Italian club refused to release him. Another player missing is Real Madrid striker Robinho, with his club announcing on Monday that he was injured.

Brazilian football authorities were reportedly furious at Madrid for leaving their decision so late, but Dunga was marginally more diplomatic. "Real Madrid are exercising their right, they can do that," he said. "Robinho is a good player and we will miss him but we have a good team."

However, in a dig at the club, he added: "There is a word called 'sensibility'. Last year when Real Madrid needed Robinho and the Brazilian squad needed Robinho, the Brazilian squad released him to Real Madrid."

Clubs releasing players for the Olympics has been a bone of contention as the tournament clashes with the first leg of the third UEFA Champions League preliminary round. Two Brazilians, Rafinha and Diego, snubbed their German teams' pre-season plans and instead travelled to Singapore.

Rafinha's Bundesliga club Schalke 04 and Diego's Werder Bremen were reportedly considering taking their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland. Dunga though welcomed the pair for opting to play for their country. "I am happy because they have shown they really want to join the squad, that tells me a lot," he said.

Brazil captured the Olympic silver medal in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and the bronze medal in the 1996 Games, but have yet to strike gold. Dunga knows expectations in football-obsessed Brazil are high.

"For other teams a silver or bronze medal might be okay but for Brazil it must be gold. That is what is expected," he said. The Olympic tournament begins on August 6 with the final on 23 August.