RIO DE JANEIRO • Ronaldinho has reportedly rejected an offer from English Premier League leaders Leicester City and could be the next Brazilian to move to China.
Brazilian portal Lancenet has reported that Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri made the two-time Fifa World Player of the Year a target during the January transfer window.
The club, who many predicted would be relegated this season, instead signed teenage winger Demarai Gray and 21-year-old Ghana international Daniel Amartey as they chase their first English title.
Ronaldinho, 35, has not played competitively since parting ways with Brazil's Fluminense in September and is a free agent.
The report added that "R10 is close to signing with a Chinese club," without providing further details.
Among former Brazil internationals to join the Chinese Super League in the past two months are Ramires (Jiangsu Suning), Jadson and Luis Fabiano (Tianjin Quanjian), Renato Augusto and Ralf (Beijing Guoan), and Gil (Shandong Luneng).
Ramires arrived from Chelsea last month for a club-record €28 million (S$44.07 million), and immediately showed fans what he is capable of. The midfielder side-footed a volley from a right-wing cross to open the scoring in Jiangsu's 2-0 friendly win over Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala on Wednesday night.
The 28-year-old's transfer fee was a record for a Chinese club - until Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande signed Atletico Madrid's Jackson Martinez for €42 million this week.
The deals underline the financial clout of Chinese football, whose ambitions include both hosting and winning a World Cup.
Factoring in the top two levels of the sport, Chinese clubs have so far spent €251 million in the current transfer period - which runs until February 26 in China - while English clubs splashed out €285.9 million before the European window closed on Monday, according to the Transfermarkt website.
The second-tier China League One ranked ahead of Germany's Bundesliga, Spain's Primera Division and France's Ligue 1 for spending.
Should Ronaldinho move to a China Super League club, he will no doubt be one of the highest profile signings since the league was formed in 2004.
The former Barcelona and AC Milan midfielder has won two La Liga titles, one Champions League title and a Serie A title. At international level, he lifted the World Cup in 2002 and has scored 33 goals in 97 matches for Brazil.
XINHUA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE