Leonardo backs Ronaldinho, hits out at press

ROME: AC Milan coach Leonardo jumped to the defence of his countryman and star player Ronaldinho following week-long reports about the Brazilian's nocturnal habits.

On the eve of Milan's trip to Bologna, a match they must win to resurrect their title hopes, Leonardo expressed his anger at the treatment his forward has received.

Reports this week claimed that Ronaldinho had been partying the night away in a hotel three days in a row ahead of the crucial Milan derby two weeks ago, which Inter won 2-0.

Ronaldinho admitted to being in a hotel but said the other stories were all false.

"I've never studied journalism but the news that has been reported cannot be published purely on hearsay," said Leonardo.

"This week the press has shown a lack of respect but when we go through this kind of situation it stengthens the group.

"I believe in my player, I know Ronaldinho better than anyone else. I know what he's done during the week (in training), he's made billions of mistakes in the past and he's paid for those.

"But news without foundation, what does that signify? Nothing.

"We do tests, we know if he's been drinking or not and also where he's been. Ronaldinho worked very hard during the week leading up to the derby and then he missed a penalty, but what does that mean?

"The club spoke with Ronaldinho to find out what happened and now we know, that's the end of it."

Leonardo also spoke about his new acquisition Mancini, another compatriot and loan signing from Inter who endured a miserable 18 months in the blue half of the city following his move from AS Roma.

"He's a great player who will give us a lot. He's come from Inter, who are our great rivals and for that reason a lot has been said about it but it was a great transfer opportunity," said Leonardo, himself a former Milan player.