LONDON (Reuters) - Ronaldinho has been told by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari that he must justify his surprise inclusion for Brazil after a one-year absence.
The 32-year-old has been in and out of the Brazil squad over the last few years and missed the 2010 World Cup as his career went steadily downhill, widely blamed on his partying lifestyle.
The twice FIFA Player of the Year’s last appearance was a year ago against Bosnia under Mano Menezes, who was sacked in November and replaced by Scolari, who has immediately recalled the controversial figure.
“Ronaldinho may be 32 but last year, he had a spectacular championship with Atletico Mineiro, where he was the leader of team,” a hoarse Scolari told a news conference at Wembley stadium on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s friendly with England.
”He has leadership qualities and he is good enough to play for several years.
“He will show me whether I am right or wrong to cap him once again and he will have to show how quickly he can integrate into the team,” added the man known as “Big Phil”, who was battling a sore throat.
The England match will be Scolari’s first since he returned for a second stint with Brazil, who he led to their fifth and last World Cup title in 2002 with a team which included Ronaldinho.
In between, Scolari led Portugal to the Euro 2004 final and World Cup semi-final in 2006.
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said the match would be Ronaldinho’s 100th for his country although it did not say whether this figure included matches against club and representative sides and the Olympic team.
Ronaldinho said he had always been hoping for another chance.
“It was in my plans, I had hopes so I‘m very happy to be back,” he told reporters.
”I don’t see myself as the group’s father figure, I‘m just another player who happens to have had a lot of experience with the team.
“I hope that, after all the things I have been through, I can help the younger players.”
Ronaldinho reached his peak with Barcelona, when he was voted FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005, and then spent three less successful years with AC Milan before joining Flamengo at the start of 2011.
He walked out on the Rio de Janeiro club last year but found a new lease of life with Atletico Mineiro.