Ronaldinho – The man who plays with a smile

by Gary Linton

Headers & Volleys - Ronaldinho - The man who plays with a smile

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, better known as Ronaldinho

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, better known to the world as Ronaldinho, was at one time or another a favourite of every football fan. With his skill, goals, and stylish looks (maybe just his smile), everyone of a certain age wanted to be Ronaldinho. Who could blame them?

Born in the city of Porto Alegre, the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Ronaldinho lost his father at the early age of eight to a heart attack and was raised by his mother, Dona Miguelina Elói Assis dos Santos, with the help of his big brother Assis and sister Deisi. The first time anyone really took notice of him as a footballer was when he was still a young boy and managed to score an incredible 23 goals in a match that his local side won, well, 23-0. He was certainly noticed again at the 1997 under 17′s World Championship which Brazil won; he scored two goals in the tournament. People started whispering how young Ronaldinho was like past players Garrincha and Didi.

His big break came in 1998 when he joined Gremio, firstly playing in the youth side but then making the step up to the main team during the Copa Libertadores de América in the same year where they were eliminated by the eventual winners, Vasco da Gama. He stayed with Gremio until 2001. During his time at Gremio he was linked with a different club every transfer window, from Arsenal in the English Premier League, where a work permit stopped his move to the Gunners, to even St Mirren of the Scottish Premier League. He was very close to joining the Saints on loan and all looked set to go through, until a fake passport problem scuppered the move. He finished up his career with the Brazilian side having played 145 games, scoring pretty much one in two with 72 goals.

Both Arsenal and St Mirren failed in bringing the young Brazilian to Europe, but where they failed, Paris Saint-Germain succeeded. In 2001 he joined the French outfit for a fee of around £5 million and stayed with the club for around two years. During his time in France he came under the spotlight on and off the pitch, playing just under 85 games for the Paris club and scoring twenty-five goals, which included some real classy efforts, such as his lovely chip from outside the box in the 2-0 semi-final win over Bordeaux.

His off-field problems occurred when he started showing his face at the night clubs in Paris, which didn’t go down too well with the club, especially his manager Luis Fernández.

In the summer of 2003 another English club was in for his signature, this time Manchester United. Yet again though, the outcome was the same as he decided to sign for Spanish side FC Barcelona, for £21 million. Ronaldinho was at Barcelona for five seasons and during his time at the club it was very easy for all to see that he was playing his best ever football. He made his debut in the friendly match against AC Milan scoring a goal in the 2-0 win. In his first season at the Nou Camp he helped Barcelona to second spot in La Liga.

One of the best ever games that I can remember watching, was quite possibly the greatest that Ronaldinho played in. On 19th November 2005, Barcelona were leading Real Madrid 2-0 with little under ten minutes remaining, with goals from Eto’o and, of course, Ronaldinho. The latter received the ball just inside the opposition half, dribbled with such elegance as he eased past Guti and then Sergio Ramos and, as cool as you like, slots the ball past Iker Casillas. Agreed it was not the best goal he ever scored, but with it being the goal that made it 3-0 against Real Madrid in their own back yard, it made it a very special goal. Even more special in fact that after the goal, both sets of fans rose to their feet and applauded the master class Ronaldinho had put on. After his five season stay at the Spanish club he decided that his best playing days were behind him and it was time to move on. He left behind so many fond memories and great goals, scoring 107 goals in 254 games, as well as gaining 80 assists.

It was largely believed that Ronaldinho was a player in decline, but many didn’t share this view. Again the bids came flying in and he turned down the chance to join an English club for a third time, this time when Manchester City came calling. In the end he chose to join AC Milan for a fee in the region of £14.5 million.

Whoever it was saying his best days are over should have realised their folly as his first goal came against none other than Inter Milan in a 1-0 win on 28th September. One of his other most memorable nights came in a 4-0 win over Siena, in which Ronaldinho managed a quite superb hat-trick, his third goal of the night being the cherry on top of the cake. In his first season with the Italian club he scored ten goals in 32 appearances. In his last season with the club, he was still extremely instrumental, topping the leader board of assists with a total fourteen. December 2010 would be the last Christmas the Brazilian would spend at the Italian club. Having scored just under 29 goals in 116 matches and with 29 assists, the Brazilian left in the January transfer window.

After three seasons at Milan, Ronaldinho wanted to go home. The rumours had it yet again that ANOTHER English club wanted him. Yes that’s right, Blackburn Rovers. Thankfully for every football fan, he decided against it and eventually went home to Brazil joining Flamengo.

When Ronaldinho was unveiled by the club, he was met by over twenty thousand fans. He scored his first goal for his new side in a 3-2 win against Boavista. One game that was always going to be interesting for him was the game that came on Sunday 30th October 2011, against his boyhood club Gremio which his new side lost 4-2. And the biggest pop of the night? Not any of the goals scored, but when Ronaldinho was booked for dissent, the fans obviously feeling a little bad that he decided to join Flamengo rather than his first club. Ronaldinho has been at Flamengo for ten months now and he’s scored 20 goals in 47 games and, with the season due to finish shortly, who knows if he’ll stay or if go. With his age the latter looks less likely.

Ronaldinho is a Brazilian legend.

When I think of the Brazilian shirt, my first thought is of the brightness of the yellow. I then go on to think of all the fantastic names to have adorned the Selecao shirt: from Pele, Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Garrincha, to Zico, Socrates, Nilton Santos, Didi & of course, Ronaldinho. The list is much, much longer than that. You understand by looking at it though, how hard it must have been and just how good he must have been to be included in amongst so many world class players.

He won his first Brazilian cap at the age of just eighteen years old, in a game against Latvia. Three days later he took part in Brazil’s successful Copa América campaign. After the Copa América, Ronaldinho played in the Confederations Cup and scored in every, match including a hat-trick in the semi-final. He missed the final against Mexico due to an injury and subsequently, Brazil lost that match 4-3.

Ronaldinho competed in his first World cup in 2002 held in South Korea and Japan from 31 May to 30 June. It was also the first World Cup held in Asia, and the last in which the golden goal rule was implemented. Brazil won the tournament for a record fifth time and he, along with the other two famous R’s Rivaldo and Ronaldo, were a force to be reckoned with. They scored fourteen between them and although Ronaldinho only managed to score one, he ended the tournament with a World Cup winner’s medal. Not bad for a twenty-two year old. Oh and I have to mention that his solitary goal was that goal, against David Seaman.

The next tournament for the Brazilian was the 2003 Confederations Cup. It didn’t go quite as well as the World cup did, winning one, drawing one and losing one in the group stages, Brazil were inevitably eliminated. He didn’t manage to make it into the next tournament, the 2004 Copa America, as the coach at the time, Carlos Alberto Parreira, wished to try out new players and tactics.

He was, however, the captain of Brazil in the Confederations Cup in 2005. During the final he played a blinder, well in fact all tournament he was completely brilliant, scoring three goals in the tournament which put him as joint overall top scorer. In the final he was handed the man of the match award as Brazil beat Argentina 4-1 to add another medal to the midfielders growing haul.

In 2006 the World Cup came around again and this time it was based in Germany. It was now time to form a new forward line, leaving one part of the three R’s behind in Rivaldo (as he had now retired), Ronaldinho was to be the main man alongside Adriano, Ronaldo, and Kaka. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. In fact it was a very disappointing outcome, especially for Ronaldinho, who only managed one assist and no goals in the tournament. Brazil eventually got knocked out in Quarter-finals at the hands of France.

Come the 2010 World Cup, he was named in the 30 man squad. This time it didn’t start, never mind end well, as he was not named in Dunga’s twenty-three man squad for South Africa. That didn’t get Ronaldinho thinking it was all over as he has been back in the squad as recently as September this year, when he was called up by new coach Mano Menezes. He played the full 90 minutes in the 1-0 win over Ghana and managed to play in the back to back friendlies against Argentina and scored a fantastic free kick against Mexico in the 2-1 friendly win.

At the age of 31, and with the next World Cup not until 2014, who knows if Ronaldinho will get the nod to play. There is an argument for and against him being chosen by Menezes, but there is only one thing he can continue to do and that is to play well for his club and just wait for that call from the manager. Until the decision is made, we can all remember the great memories he’s given us in his brilliant career.

One thing for sure is that he will never be forgotten and will go down in history as yet another fantastic Brazilian player. That man is none other than the great Ronaldinho.

You may have noticed, I haven’t put up, or mentioned what Ronaldinho has won in his wonderful career. The reason is. It just looks so much better listed below:

Honours

Club

Grêmio
South Cup (1): 1999
Rio Grande do Sul State Championship (1): 1999

Paris Saint-Germain
UEFA Intertoto Cup (1): 2001

Barcelona
La Liga (2): 2004–05, 2005–06
Supercopa de España (2): 2005, 2006
UEFA Champions League (1): 2005–06

AC Milan
Serie A (1): 2010–11

Flamengo
Taça Guanabara (1): 2011
Taça Rio (1): 2011
Campeonato Carioca (1): 2011

International

Brazil
Copa América (1): 1999
FIFA World Cup (1): 2002
FIFA Confederations Cup (1): 2005
Superclásico de las Américas (1): 2011

Individual
FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Ball: 1999
FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Shoe: 1999
Rio Grande do Sul State Championship Top Scorer: 1999
FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 2002
FIFA 100
Don Balón Award (2): 2003–04, 2005–06
EFE Trophy (1): 2004
FIFA World Player of the Year (2): 2004, 2005
UEFA Club Best Forward (1): 2004–05
European Footballer of the Year (1): 2005
FIFPro World Player of the Year (2): 2005, 2006
UEFA Club Footballer of the Year (1): 2005–06
UEFA Team of the Year (3): 2003–04, 2004–05, 2005–06
FIFPro World XI (3): 2004–05, 2005–06, 2006–07
Golden Foot (1): 2009

Gary is a regular blogger and podcaster for Lovely Left Foot, The Football Project and French Football Weekly. You can tweet him @Linton1388.

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Posted on 17/11/2011, in 3. The Classics, 7. Special Guests and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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