Ze Roberto quits Brazil for Europe

RIO DE JANEIRO - Santos midfielder Ze Roberto is quitting Brazilian soccer and the country's national team to return to Europe.

RIO DE JANEIRO - Santos midfielder Ze Roberto is quitting Brazilian soccer and the country's national team to return to Europe.

Ze Roberto told a televised news conference late Friday that he wanted to move his family back to Europe, where he played for nine years before joining Santos last season, because he was worried about violence in the country.

The 33-year-old midfielder's decision further depletes Brazil's squad for the Copa America, which starts on June 26 in Venezuela. Coach Dunga was already without FC Barcelona's Ronaldinho and AC Milan's Kaka, who have asked to be rested.

"I've made my decision to return to Europe. It's a chance I have to offer some peace to my family," Ze Roberto said.

Widely considered the best player in the Brazilian championship, Ze Roberto led Santos to the semifinals of this year's Copa Libertadores continental championship. Many top players have had family members targeted for kidnapping in major Brazilian cities.

"I learned to live with the problems of our country while I was with Santos. But the most important thing is freedom. And my family grew up accustomed to a freedom that we don't have in Brazil."

Ze Roberto said he hasn't agreed to join anyone, but he reportedly has offers from Germany's Bayern Munich and Italy's AC Milan and AS Roma.

"It's not just a financial question. If it were only money, I wouldn't have returned to Brazil last year," he said. "What weighed in my decision was an analysis of career and my age."

Ze Roberto was in the Brazil team that was favourite to win last year's World Cup, but the squad played poorly and was eliminated by France in the quarterfinals.

Ze Roberto also played at the 1998 World Cup and won the Copa America in 1997 and 1999, and Confederations Cup in 1997 and 2005. "The decision to leave Santos and to end my cycle on the Brazilian team were the most difficult of my career," he said. - Sapa-AP

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