Ronaldinho canned by Coke after Pepsi drinking blunder

By David Gold

Ronaldinho July_12July 13 - Ronaldinho's troubled 2012 took a further turn for the worse this week as Coca-Cola dropped him after he drank a can of Pepsi during a press conference.

The former FIFA World Player of the Year was speaking to the media after signing for his new team, Atletico Mineiro.

The player reportedly earned $750,000 (£487,000/€615,000) from his deal with Coca-Cola.

"Coca Cola recognises the career and the value of Ronaldinho," Coca-Cola said in a statement.

"However due to recent developments it has become impossible to continue the partnership."

The decision to drop him, according to the company's marketing chief Marcelo Pontes, went deeper than this one indiscretion though.

"The fact that the player has appeared with a can of Pepsi was the straw that broke the camel's back," Pontes told O Estado de São Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper.

"The sponsorship had become embarrassing."

Ronaldinho (pictured) started the year disappointingly enduring a miserable relationship with fans of Rio giants Flamengo, who accused him of not giving his best to the team.

Ronaldinho-Pepsi Press_Conference_July_12_
He was alleged to have spent more time partying than concentrating on his football, with matters coming to a head when the team was booted out of the Copa Libertadores at the group stage.

The former Barcelona star has since left Flamengo, Brazil's most popular club, and sued them for unpaid wages.

He has now joined Mineiro, and though they are top of the league at present, the haphazard nature of Brazilian football means many of the top teams in the country have not yet played fully focused opposition this season.

The likes of Corinthians and Santos have been concentrating on the Copa Libertadores, while others such as Palmeiras and Curitiba have been distracted by the Copa do Brasil.

Ronaldinho has also faced the ignominy of seeing his international career come to an end after being excluded from the Brazil squad for this summer's Olympics in London.

All of this has left the impression of a player who has thrown his own talent away, reducing his appeal to major sponsors.

This is a particular issue in a country where sponsorship deals account for a more significant proportion of a player's wages than they do in Europe.

Ronaldinho now also has the unwanted "honour" of following in the footsteps of pop star Britney Spears, who was also canned – but by Pepsi after drinking Coca-Cola in public.

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June 2012: Ronaldhino sues former club Flamengo in dispute over unpaid wages
May 2012: Ronaldinho set to miss London 2012 after snubbed by Brazilian coach
March 2012: Ronaldinho still aiming for football gold at London 2012
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