Ronaldinho smiles again


MILAN, Nov 3 – Ronaldinho said on Tuesday that he is finally happy again playing for Brazilian compatriot Leonardo at AC Milan.RONALDINHOThe Italians tackle Real Madrid in the Champions League at the San Siro on Wednesday as the two most successful clubs in European competition go head to head for the second time in two weeks.

The 29-year-old has endured a difficult last two seasons, proving to be a shadow of the player he once was when he inspired Barcelona to Champions League glory and won successive world player of the year awards.

But he has been improving lately, and proving decisive for Milan by creating many crucial goals recently.

"With Leonardo (the coach) I’m happy. Football is like this, right now I feel good and I’m happy," Ronaldinho said.

"And when I feel like this, things work better. What’s the secret? I’ve worked hard and I’ve had the time to do so.

"The coach and the physio are helping me, I’m going onto the pitch at 100 percent and my body is responding, things are coming easier to me.

"Last season I didn’t play much, now I’m playing more and the coach has confidence in me."

Ronaldinho actually made a pretty good start to his Milan career last season, scoring the winner in the Milan derby with a rare header.

But injury and some ill-discipline during the winter break affected the second half of his season, in which he struggled to earn a place in the starting line up and rarely bristled even when he did play.

All he wants now is to start adding goals to his repertoire.

"I’m delighted to help my team-mates, I’m providing assists but I want to do better by scoring goals," he added.

"I’m expecting a great night for the whole team and I want to give my all."

Leonardo has been trying to boost his player’s confidence by claiming he would go down in history as one of the greatest of all time.

"Surely we have to insert Ronaldinho in the list of the top 10 players of all time," he said before turning attentions to Wednesday’s game.

"These matches between Milan and Real have a history all of their own. Our results have been good, we’ve got a good atmosphere and it’s always the right time for a game like this."

Milan are sweating over the fitness of centre-back Alessandro Nesta while Leonardo will have to decide who out of Filippo Inzaghi and Marco Borriello will partner Ronaldinho and Pato in his three-man attack.

While the game is probably the biggest in Europe this week, it is not a winner takes all clash for these two.

Whatever the result in this Group C match they will both come out of it still in a good position to qualify for the Champions League knock-out stages.

They both have six points with Marseille and FC Zurich three points back and Real’s Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini is thinking more about top spot than qualifying.

"Both teams are aiming for first place in the group and will be trying to win," he said.

"We’ll have a go from the first minute and we’ll see what happens but I’m sure we’ll play a great match."

Pellegrini also insisted his team had not taken Milan lightly in their first match in the Bernabeu, where the Italians scored a shock 3-2 win.

"We weren’t over-confident, until they equalised (at 1-1) we had controlled the game," he said.

"Then we lost our shape and with the great players they have, Milan made the most of that."

Despite not scoring in six matches, France forward Karim Benzema looks likely to start alongside Argentine Gonzalo Higuain in attack with Raul dropping to the bench.