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Ronaldinho facing new criticism

sports Updated: Jan 19, 2008 19:11 IST

Ronaldinho's work ethic is under attack again.

The Brazil playmaker, who hasn't featured in 2008 as he recovers from tendinitis in his left knee, is facing new criticism after As newspaper questioned his diet on Saturday.

The Spanish daily printed a photo of a sweat-drenched Ronaldinho in training with FC Barcelona, and suggested that the player's inactivity has led to weight gain. It is the second time within a year that the 27-year-old Brazilian's weight has been a topic of discussion in Spain.

"Ronaldinho is recuperating from an injury in the best manner possible and all of these commentaries revolving around a player of his stature should be heard, but I'm also asking that the player be respected," president Joan Laporta said.

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard said Ronaldinho, FIFA's World Player of the Year in 2004 and '05, would return to the squad when he was ready.

"He's working very hard, with two sessions a day and that is what is most important," the Dutchman said. "When he's physically ready, he'll return."

Over the past year Ronaldinho hasn't looked like the player who led Barcelona to two straight league titles and the European Cup since his arrival from PSG in 2003.

He started from the bench for the first time at the Camp Nou this season and has subsequently been linked with a move to England's Chelsea or AC Milan of Italy.

"We have no intention of selling Ronaldinho," Laporta said Friday. "We're planning the season around Ronaldinho and the players we have, and we'll continue under this logic." Barcelona, which plays sixth-place Racing Santander on Sunday, trails Spanish league leader Real Madrid by seven points at the halfway point of the season.

The Catalan club has advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League and the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.