Brazilian international striker Jo has thanked his Atletico Mineiro team mate Ronaldinho for helping revive his stalled career.
Both played pivotal roles on Wednesday as Atletico Mineiro clinched their first Copa Libertadores title with a thrilling penalty shootout victory over Olimpia, Xinhua reported.
Jo, who earned an international recall for Brazil’s triumphant Confederations Cup campaign last month, capped a remarkable six-month performance by scoring a second-half goal and converting a spot-kick during the penalty shootout at the Mineirao stadium.
Ronaldinho was not so effective, but no less worthy of praise. He impressed with his tireless box-to-box running against the Paraguayan outfit after being substituted for a lacklustre display in the first leg, when Atletico lost 0-2 in Asuncion.
“At the end of last season Ronaldinho said to me, ‘Next year we are going to win the Mineirao (Minas Gerais state championship) as well as the Copa Libertadores, and you will return to the national team’,” Jo said.
“All this has happened and the year is only six months old. His belief has helped me a lot.”
Jo’s career was at the crossroads when he was released by Internacional in May last year after managing just six goals from 16 matches with the Porto Alegre side.
But the former Manchester City striker was quickly signed by Atletico Mineiro, where he struck an immediate affinity with Ronaldinho, who had also just arrived after a turbulent spell at Flamengo.
“A lot of people criticised us, which is part of football. But we have been able to get back to our best form with the help of the club, the coach (Cuca) and the president (Alexandre Kalil). We have had the humility to start again from scratch,” Jo said.
The 26-year-old praised Atletico’s fans, saying their unbending support had been crucial to the team’s success in Latin America’s elite club competition.
“I wasn’t sure if the fans were going to believe in me,” he said. “But since the day I arrived they have supported me and only those who play football know how important that is. They have always been behind us, no matter the result.”
Former Barcelona and AC Milan star Ronaldinho is now the only player to win the World Cup (2002), UEFA Champions League (2006) and Copa Libertadores.