During his short-lived peak, Ronaldinho was the ultimate symbol of o joga bonito or the beautiful game. Crossing generations, the great tricksters like Garrincha, George Best and Stanley Matthews may have attracted similar awe in their day, but in terms of pure entertainment in the 21st Century, Ronaldinho is streets ahead.
A World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002, Ronaldinho is best known for his Barcelona days which saw him lift the Ballon d’Or in 2005. Copious amounts of backheels, no-look passes, flip-flaps were the norm in every Ronaldinho match in his glorious Barcelona career. The ball seemed to be at his complete command, a special talent that only a few players in history have had. The tendency for this type of player is to be a bit of a flat-track bully who will get away with his tricks against lesser teams before being found out against the top teams.
Yet, in big games, Ronaldinho produced. There was the hat-trick at the Bernebeu, sparking a standing ovation from the fans of his team’s fiercest rivals. Or the incredible shimmy then shot against Chelsea in the Champions League as Ronaldinho made his mark against one of the best defences of this century. Or there is that wonderful pass against AC Milan in the Champions League semi-final in 2006. A game where nothing was happening, decided by genius.
Watch below for the classic Ronaldinho peak performance, where every touch radiates class.
In 2007, Ronaldinho broke the twenty goal barrier in the league for the first time but the magic was sadly fading fast. He took his foot off the pedal, his partying became excessive, his desire to win faded and so with it did the magic that had thrilled the world. As late as 2013, he won the Copa Liberatodores with Atletico Mineiro in Brazil earning a call-up to the Brazil squad again. Playing against England at Wembley, he missed a penalty-kick in the first-half before being hauled off at half-time. He was a shadow of his former self at age 33. He would only play once more for Brazil, missing his home World Cup in 2014.
Was it shame that we did not see more of the great Ronaldinho? Sure it was however not every player will have the obsessive determination of a Cristiano Ronaldo. At the peak of his powers, Ronaldinho was a World Cup, Champions League, Ballon d’Or and La Liga winner. He did it all and he did it with style and that will never be forgotten.