SAO PAULO (AP) – Retired striker Ronaldo is far from done with soccer.
Ronaldo will be playing his farewell match with Brazil's national team Tuesday, but it won't be the end for him. Since retiring in February, Ronaldo has stayed active with a sports marketing agency and a career managing young players.
Still highly influential in the sport he dominated for years, the three-time FIFA player of the year is already succeeding off the field too, signing clients such as Neymar and Lucas, touted as the future of Brazil's national team. He is a partner in the company named ''9ine,'' which also has deals outside soccer, including with Brazilian indoor soccer star Falcao and the Ultimate Fighting Championship's Anderson Silva.
''Because of the agency, I've been able to keep working with what I like the most - sports,'' Ronaldo said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. ''Of course that I still have a lot to learn in business and in marketing, but I'm working hard, participating in the agency's day-to-day activities, helping in the decision-making process and meeting with clients and prospects.''
Ronaldo says he is not an agent, that he is not in the business of making money by signing young talents and then selling them. He guarantees the company is not directly involved in managing his clients' careers, but more in the field of attracting sponsors and managing their images through public relations.
Sao Paulo midfielder Lucas, who teamed up with Neymar to help Brazil win the under-20 South American championship earlier this year, was the latest to sign with Ronaldo.
''This partnership shows exactly where '9ine' wants to play, with focus on communication and marketing,'' Ronaldo said on Twitter when the deal was closed last month. ''Lucas is a young and talented player, a great opportunity for brands who want to invest in sports.''
Lucas and Neymar, currently the most talked about player in Brazilian soccer, are expected to be Brazil's top players when the country hosts the 2014 World Cup.
But Ronaldo is looking for more.
He said he is yet to reach exclusive deals with Brazil star Kaka or young playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso, another promising Brazilian star, but both players said they are open to negotiate with Ronaldo if he can provide good sponsorship opportunities.
Ronaldo has a 45 percent stake at the ''9ine Sports and Entertainment'' agency, while the WPP Group owns another 45 percent and a Brazilian entrepreneur has the remaining 10 percent. The agency focuses on exploiting the marketing opportunities in Brazil as it prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio, according to the website of WPP, which calls itself a world leader in advertising and marketing services.
On Tuesday, Ronaldo is expected to play a few minutes in Brazil's exhibition against Romania in Sao Paulo, marking the final time he will officially wear the famed yellow jersey. He will be honored at halftime for his successful time playing with the national team.
His last official match with Brazil was in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where Brazil lost to France in the quarterfinals. The 34-year-old Ronaldo ended an 18-year career in February, saying he couldn't stay fit anymore while playing for Corinthians.
Despite a career plagued by severe knee injuries, Ronaldo played in four World Cups and is the tournament's top goalscorer with 15. He was on soccer, though, and his business also is reaching other areas. After Silva defeated Vitor Belfort with a spectacular single kick to the face in a UFC fight in February, he quickly put on a Corinthians' jersey that sported one of the brands sponsoring him after a deal with Ronaldo's company.
Ronaldo also has a deal with Falcao, who is considered the world's best indoor soccer player and is well known in Brazil and in Europe.
Tales Azzoni can be reached at http://twitter.com/tazzoni