Santana seeks best out of Ronaldinho

Joel Santana has taken the reins at Flamengo with the mission of getting the best out of Ronaldinho in the Libertadores Cup with the vacancy he left at Bahia being filled on Tuesday by former Brazil midfielder Falcao.

The group phase of South America's elite club tournament was kicking off later on Tuesday with Flamengo, winners in 1981, making their Group Two bow away to Lanus of Argentina next week.

Santana was unveiled at Flamengo on Monday having resigned at Bahia last Thursday apparently sure the job was his at the same time as Vanderlei Luxemburgo was being sacked.

The 63-year-old, who quit Flamengo in 2009 to coach 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa only to be sacked a few months before the finals, has returned with the mission of improving relations between players and coaching staff.

"Ronaldo is the team's star, idol and he'll settle games for us. He's talented and knows how to play, the quality of this kid is impressive," Santana said at his unveiling, using the name Ronaldinho goes by in Brazil.

"When you buy a rare piece you have to put it in the best place in the house. He'll play where he feels best," added Santana of the gifted forward who inspired Barcelona to victory in the 2006 Champions League.

"If he wants to be on the left we'll put him there, if he prefers the right, he'll go to that sector. Is he in the middle? Then he'll play in the middle."


Flamengo, Brazilian champions in 2009 and keen to add to their solitary Libertadores Cup victory 31 years ago, signed Ronaldinho from AC Milan 13 months ago after the Brazil player had seen his best years in Europe.

Luxemburgo managed to steer Brazil's most popular club through a tricky preliminary round tie against Real Potosi of Bolivia, winning last Wednesday's second leg 2-0 at home to qualify 3-2 on aggregate for the group phase.

However, Luxemburgo had problems with some of his senior players, including party-loving captain Ronaldinho, and club president Patricia Amorim decided to dispense with the former Real Madrid and Brazil coach's services.

Falcao, a former midfielder who played for Brazil at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups and won Serie A with AS Roma in 1983, had been out of work since he was sacked by Internacional in July.

Bahia, Brazilian champions in 1988, are taking part in the Baiano state championship in Brazil's north-east, before bidding for a third title in the national first division which kicks off in May.

The 58-year-old Falcao's debut match is Sunday's derby against Vitoria, coached by his former Brazil team-mate Toninho Cerezo.