Ronaldinho: I've come for gold

With his unparalleled dribbling skill and dazzling array of impossible tricks, the ever-smiling Ronaldinho has oozed charisma and charm ever since he burst on to the world scene. A winner of the FIFA World Cup™ in 2002 and the UEFA Champions League in 2006, the lauded playmaker has travelled to China in search of another priceless accolade - Brazil's first gold medal in a Men's Olympic Football Tournament.

As he prepares for Thursday's debut against Belgium, AC Milan's latest star acquisition spoke exclusively to about his recent move to Italy, his expectations as a member of Dunga's squad and the build-up to his second Olympic Games. Ronaldinho, a lot is expected of Brazil at these Olympic Games. What do you think is the team's biggest strength at this tournament?
On a personal level it's a great honour to be representing my country again at the Olympic Games. Aside from great players we've got a very united squad and our goal, and my goal too, is to win Brazilian football's first ever gold medal. That's why I came to China.

Who are your main rivals for the gold? Argentina maybe?
There's no doubt that Argentina are an excellent side who deserve all my respect. They've got some world class players and we know all about them. But we've also got our strengths and we deserve respect from everyone.

Let's talk about you a little. Do you think your move to AC Milan will help you get back to your best in China?
Obviously I'm delighted to have gone to such an important and prestigious club as Milan. They've signed me because they know my game and what I can do out on the pitch. But your club is one things, and your country another. As happy as I am about moving to Italy, right now all I'm thinking about is doing my very best here in China.

You are sharing the same hotel as the Brazil women's team here in Shenyang. What is that like?
Yes, we are. We're all staying here and we bump into each other a lot. Naturally, we're hoping they do really well and that they can win a gold medal too.

Will you be following any other sports at the Games? Are you in touch with any other Brazilian athletes?
I've got friends taking part in other events like swimming and obviously I hope they do very well and win as many medals as possible for Brazil. But I hope everyone representing our country does well and I wish them every success.

Should you progress in the tournament, you will most likely be travelling to the Olympic Village in Beijing. Have you thought about what that experience might be like?
Our expectation is to advance as far as we can in the tournament and reach the semi-finals. If we can do that, we'll be going to the Village. We can't afford to lose our focus, though, and we need to take things step by step.

How has China welcomed you?
In the best way possible. Everyone has been so friendly to us it's amazing. Now it's our turn to repay them for their warmth and hospitality by performing well on the pitch.

One last question. Can you complete the following sentence? ‘Brazil will win the gold because ...'
(Pauses) I think if Brazil work hard, if they do things the way they can, then they will have a great chance of winning the gold medal.