A skillful, audacious footballer, Ronaldinho was a rare player who epitomised the style and flair that can’t be taught outside of the streets, beaches and Favelas of Brazil.
Ronaldinho took to the football pitch with a playful, boyish attitude, which characterised his performances on some of the greatest professional stages in world soccer. The charismatic Brazilian went on to win almost every major honour in elite soccer.
Known for no-look passes and turning defenders inside out, the Brazilian forward took European football by storm for Paris St Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan before returning to his Brazilian roots later in his career.
RONALDINHO – THE EARLY DAYS
Ronaldinho, whose real name is Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, was born in Porto Alegre on March 21, 1980. A love of football was already well-established in Ronaldinho’s family upon his birth; he father was a former professional but also worked as a welder, his older brother and uncles also played professionally.
From the age of 9, Ronaldinho played organised youth soccer in his local community and he soon established himself as one of Brazil’s most exciting youth players, once scoring 23 goals in a match at the age of 13.
After impressing for the under-17 national side in Egypt during the 1997 FIFA World Championships, Ronaldinho was signed by his local Porto Alegre side, Grêmio. He would go on to make 145 appearances for his hometown side, scoring 72 goals, and the Brazilian starlet was scouted by a host of European clubs after three seasons with Grêmio.
PARIS ST GERMAIN – 77 GAMES – 25 GOALS
Paris St Germain recruited Ronaldinho before the start of the 2001/02 season. The Brazilian did not become a household name immediately in Paris, often being used by manager Luis Fernández as a second half substitute rather than a regular starter.
After a run of appearances in the starting line-up, Ronaldinho began to showcase his extraordinary attacking talents towards the end of his first season where he contributed five goals and three assists within the space of nine games.
Despite concerns over Ronaldinho’s penchant for the Paris nightlife, he was handed the number 10 shirt in his second season in Paris and he led his side to the Coupe de France final in 2003, which they lost 2-1 to Auxerre.
BARCELONA – 207 GAMES – 94 GOALS
After just two years in Paris, Ronaldinho earned his dream move to Spanish giants Barcelona in 2003. The Brazilian was handed the number 10 jersey, an honour befitting only the most creative players who represent the club.
Ronaldinho did not disappoint the fans upon his arrival in Catalonia and became one of their most integral players between 2003 and 2008.
In his second season, Ronaldinho was instrumental in leading Barcelona to the 2004/05 La Liga title, which they retained in the following year. Ronaldinho’s impact was so important to Braca, he won the individual FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2004 and 2005, whilst also winning the Ballon d’Or in 2005.
Ronaldinho’s final honour with Barcelona came in 2006 when a wonderfully gifted Barcelona side, which included Xavi, Lionel Messi and Andreas Iniesta,lifted the Champions League title and Ronaldinho’s third major trophy with the club.
AC MILAN – 95 GAMES – 26 GOALS
After five exciting years at Barcelona, Ronaldinho signed for Italian side AC Milan. Ronaldinho didn’t make as much of a positive impact initially at Milan, only scoring 10 goals in his first season. But he became rampant again in the 2009/10 season, scoring 12 and setting up 18 goals for his team mates.
Although he was a key player for the Serie A side, Ronaldinho’s commitment to the club and training with the team became questionable. Once again, rumours circled about the Brazilian favouring the Milan nightlife over his footballing duties which led to his departure in 2011.
RETURN TO BRAZIL
Ronaldinho left Milan after two and half seasons and returned to Brazil to help Flamengo win the Brasileirão title. However, after a year with the club, Ronaldinho departed in dramatic fashion after contract disputes and unpaid wages.
The Brazilian star spent the final years of his career flitting between teams in Brazil and Mexico.
The once unbeatable superstar failed to establish a presence like he had achieved in his earlier years and he retired in 2015 following a short spell with another Brazilian team, Fluminense FC.
BRAZIL NATIONAL TEAM – 97 GAMES – 33 GOALS
Some of Ronaldinho’s best moments came in a Brazil shirt. After his rise to fame with Paris St Germain, the tricky forward was included in Brazil’s senior 2002 World Cup squad alongside fellow Seleção greats, and his idols, Ronaldo and Rivaldo.
This world-class competition didn’t prevent Ronaldinho from getting a game. He played five of Brazil’s seven games in the 2002 World Cup and scored two goals. But he was sent off in the 2-1 quarter final win against England, preventing him from featuring in any further matches. Brazil went on to win the tournament and it was Ronaldinho’s first major trophy as a professional footballer.
Ronaldinho’s only other trophy with Brazil came in 2005 when they won the Confederations Cup, when he captained the side to the tournament win.
RONALDINHO – STYLE OF PLAY
There were many great aspects of Ronaldinho’s playing style. His creativity was unrivalled whilst at his peak at Barcelona and he could see passes that seemed to defy physical law.
He could also score goals from almost anywhere on the pitch. Perhaps the most iconic of which looped over David Seaman in the 2002 World Cup quarter-final from nearly 40-yards out. Only Ronaldinho will truly know if he meant to score, but his ability suggested he was more than capable.
But, the greatest element of Ronaldinho’s play was his trickery. Bamboozling some of the best defenders in the world on a weekly basis almost seemed like a hobby to Ronaldinho and it almost seemed like the ball was attached to a piece of string around his boot.
RONALDINHO – LEGACY
Ronaldinho was part of both an iconic Barcelona and Brazil team that oozed footballing class.
He was truly a world class player in his prime and clips now show just how great a player he was. No player has truly emulated Ronaldinho’s style in recent years, but the likes of his compatriot Neymar have taken to the world stage with the same swagger and ability which Ronaldinho once portrayed.