The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Barcelona determined to snatch Ronaldinho

Barcelona: Spanish club Barcelona, outmanoeuvred by Real Madrid for David Beckham, are determined to snatch Brazil World Cup star Ronaldinho from under the nose of Manchester United.

Joan Laporta, elected Barcelona president on the back of his pledge to bring England captain Beckham to the club, was reported on Friday to have instructed his sports director Sandro Rosell to clinch a deal with Paris St Germain for Ronaldinho.

Rosell met Ronaldinho’s brother and agent Roberto Assis in Paris on Thursday.

Assis, with whom United provisionally agreed a contract two months ago, confirmed Barcelona had made an offer.“But it won’t be until the final of the Confederations Cup on June 29 that we’ll announce a decision,” Assis said.

Barcelona were also reported to be chasing Leeds United’s Australian international Harry Kewell who is wanted by United and Arsenal, but Ronaldinho was top of their wish-list. “Kewell is on our list but he is not a priority,” Rosell told Spanish media on Friday. “Our priority is Ronaldinho.”

The French sports daily L’Equipe reported on Friday that Paris were set to do a 35 million euro deal with Barcelona for Ronaldinho.

Laporta, left by the previous board with debts of 98 million euros, has pledged to restore Barcelona to their glory days, when they won the 1992 European Cup with their so-called dream team under coach Johan Cruyff.

And he believes Ronaldinho would prefer the Catalan lifestyle to northwest England.

Laporta has also to decide what to do about Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert who has been linked with a match-up with countryman Ruud van Nistelrooy at United.His contract does not expire until 2005 but a clause in his contract allows Barcelona to halve his annual salary, reportedly six million euros.

In return, Kluivert’s transfer fee would be slashed from 36 million euros to 1.8 million euros, smoothing the way for him to negotiate better terms with a new club.

Laporta has also not ruled out persuading Dutch coach Guus Hiddink taking over at the club. Hiddink, the former South Korean World Cup coach, steered PSV Eindhoven to the Dutch League title this year.

“I’m confident he will reconsider but he’s not the only option,” Laporta said. Barcelona, also linked with Betis Seville coach Victor Fernandez, appear set to dump Serbian coach Radomir Antic, whom former president Enric Reyna appointed in February to replace Louis van Gaal.

Barcelona captain Luis Enrique Martinez refused to get involved in the transfer talk. “Nothing that goes on in football surprises me any more,” he told Barcelona’s website.“People want to see fresh faces when you don’t get good results.”

Laporta was reported to have also agreed terms with Fenerbahce goalkeeper Rustu Recber, who was a key figure in Turkey’s third-place finish at last year’s World Cup.

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