Ronaldinho

Last updated on 15 June 2017

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira (born 21 March 1980), commonly known as Ronaldinho (Brazilian Portuguese: [ʁonawˈdʒĩɲu]) or Ronaldinho Gaúcho,[note 1] is a Brazilian professional footballer[note 2] and ambassador for Spanish club FC Barcelona.[5] Ronaldinho has played mainly as an attacking midfielder, but has also been deployed as a forward or as a winger. He played the bulk of his career at European clubs Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Milan as well as playing for the Brazilian national team. Regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation,[note 3] Ronaldinho has won two FIFA World Player of the Year awards and a Ballon d'Or. He is renowned for his technical skills and creativity; due to his agility, pace and dribbling ability, as well as his use of tricks, overhead kicks, no-look passes and accuracy from free-kicks.

Ronaldinho made his senior debut for Grêmio, in 1998. At age 20, he relocated to France to play for Paris Saint-Germain before signing for Barcelona in 2003. In his second season with Barcelona, he won his first FIFA World Player of the Year Award, as Barcelona won La Liga. The season that followed is considered one of the best in his career as he was instrumental in Barcelona winning the UEFA Champions League, their first in fourteen years, as well as another La Liga title, giving Ronaldinho his first career double. After scoring two spectacular solo goals in El Clásico, Ronaldinho became the second Barcelona player, after Diego Maradona in 1983, to receive a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabéu. Ronaldinho also received his second FIFA World Player of the Year award, as well as the Ballon d'Or.

Following a second-place La Liga finish to rivals Real Madrid in the 2006-07 season and an injury plagued 2007-08 season, Ronaldinho departed Barcelona to join Milan. He then returned to Brazil to play for Flamengo in 2011 and Atlético Mineiro a year later, before moving to Mexico to play for Querétaro and then back to Brazil to play for Fluminense in 2015. Throughout his playing career, Ronaldinho has accumulated numerous other individual honours. He was named in the UEFA Team of the Year and the FIFA World XI three times, honoured as the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in 2006 and was named in the FIFA 100, a list of the world's greatest living players compiled by Pelé.

At international level, Ronaldinho has played 97 matches for the Brazil national team, scoring 33 goals. He represented his country in two FIFA World Cups, and was an integral part of the 2002 FIFA World Cup-winning team in Korea and Japan, starring alongside Ronaldo and Rivaldo in an attacking trio. He scored two goals, including a memorable free-kick from 40 yards out against England's David Seaman, registered two assists and was named in the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team. As captain, Ronaldinho led his nation to its second ever Confederations Cup title in 2005 and was named Man of the Match in a 4–1 victory over archrivals Argentina in the final.[6] Ronaldinho scored three goals in the tournament, taking his total to a record-tying nine goals, making him the competition's joint all-time leading goalscorer.

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Ronaldinho 11feb2007.jpg

Early and personal life

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira was born 21 March 1980 in the city of Porto Alegre, the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. His mother, Dona Miguelina Elói Assis dos Santos (daughter of Enviro Assis),[7] is a former salesperson who studied to become a nurse. His father, João de Assis Moreira, was a shipyard worker and footballer for local club Esporte Clube Cruzeiro (not to be confused with the larger Cruzeiro Esporte Clube).[8] He suffered a fatal heart attack in the family swimming pool when Ronaldo was eight. After Ronaldo's older brother Roberto signed with Grêmio, the family moved to a home in the more affluent Guarujá section of Porto Alegre, which was a gift from Grêmio to convince Roberto to stay at the club, but Roberto's career was ultimately cut short by injury. Today, Roberto acts as his manager, while his sister Deisi works as his press coordinator.[9][10] Ronaldo's football skills began to blossom at the age of eight, and he was first given the nickname "Ronaldinho" because he was often the youngest and the smallest player in youth club matches.[9] He developed an interest in futsal and beach football, which later expanded to organized football. His first brush with the media came at the age of 13, when he scored all 23 goals in a 23–0 victory against a local team.[11] Ronaldinho was identified as a rising star at the 1997 U-17 World Championship in Egypt, in which he scored two goals on penalty kicks.[12][13]

Growing up, his idols included the World Cup winning stars; Rivelino (from 1970), Diego Maradona (from 1986), Romário (from 1994), and his two future international teammates Ronaldo and Rivaldo (which would form the attacking trio in Brazil's 2002 World Cup winning team).[14] Ronaldinho is the father of a son, João, born on 25 February 2005 to Brazilian dancer Janaína Mendes and named after his late father.[15] He gained Spanish citizenship in 2007.[16]

Club career

Grêmio

Ronaldinho's career began with the Grêmio youth squad. He made his senior side debut during the 1998 Copa Libertadores.[18] 1999 saw the emergence of the 18-year-old Ronaldinho, with 23 goals in 48 matches, and he put in headlining displays in derbies against Internacional, most notably on 20 June 1999 in the Rio Grande do Sul State Championship final.[19] In a match-winning performance, Ronaldinho embarrassed Internacional's Brazilian legend and 1994 World Cup-winning captain Dunga, flicking the ball over his head on one occasion, and leaving him flat-footed in a mazy dribble on another.[19] Ronaldinho achieved further success with Grêmio, winning the inaugural Copa Sul-Minas.[19]

In 2001, Arsenal expressed interest in signing Ronaldinho, but the move collapsed after he could not obtain a work permit because he was a non-EU player who had not played enough international matches.[20] He considered playing on loan with Scottish Premier League side St Mirren, which never happened due to his involvement in a fake passport scandal in Brazil.[21]

Paris Saint-Germain

In 2001, Ronaldinho signed a five-year contract with French club Paris Saint-Germain in a €5 million transfer.[22] Upon his arrival in Paris, Ronaldinho was given the number 21 shirt and inserted into a lineup that included fellow Brazilian Aloísio, midfielder Jay-Jay Okocha and striker Nicolas Anelka.[23]

Ronaldinho made his league debut for the club on 4 August 2001, appearing as a substitute in a 1–1 draw with Auxerre.[24] Ronaldinho spent the majority of the first few months of the 2001–02 season alternated between the bench and starter's role. He scored his first goal for the club on 13 October in a 2–2 draw against Lyon, converting the equalizing penalty in the 79th minute after having come on ten minutes prior.[25] After returning from the winter break, Ronaldinho went on a tear, scoring a goal in four consecutive matches to open the new campaign. He recorded impressive goals against Monaco, Rennes, Lens and Lorient. On 16 March 2002, he recorded a double in PSG's 3–1 victory against relegation strugglers Troyes.[26] He scored his final league goal of the season in the club's 2–0 win over Metz on 27 April.[27]

Ronaldinho was also influential in the 2001–02 Coupe de la Ligue, helping PSG reach the semi-finals where they were eliminated by Bordeaux. In a Round of 16 match against Guingamp, Ronaldinho scored two second half goals in the game after having entered the match as a half-time substitute. Despite Ronaldinho's initial success with the club, the season was marred by controversy with Paris Saint-Germain manager Luis Fernández, claiming that the Brazilian was too focused on the Parisian nightlife rather than football, and complained that his holidays in Brazil never ended at the scheduled times.[18]

2002–03 season

Despite repeated rifts with Fernández, Ronaldinho returned to the team for the 2002–03 season, with the player switching to the number 10 shirt. Though his performances in his second season with the club were underwhelming compared to his first, Ronaldinho performed admirably with the club. On 26 October 2002, he scored two goals in PSG's 3–1 victory over Classique rivals Marseille. The first goal was a free kick, which curled past numerous Marseille players in the 18-yard box before sailing past goalkeeper Vedran Runje. In the return match, he again scored in PSG's 3–0 victory at the Stade Vélodrome, running half the length of the field before flicking the ball over the goalkeeper.[28]

Ronaldinho was also praised for his performance in the Coupe de France when he scored both goals in the club's 2–0 win over Bordeaux in the semi-finals, which inserted PSG into the final. After scoring his first goal in the 22nd minute, Ronaldinho capped the game in the 81st minute, accurately chipping the ball at the 18-yard box over the head of goalkeeper Ulrich Ramé, despite Ramé being in a favorable position. For his performance, Ronaldinho was given a standing ovation by the Parisian supporters. Unfortunately for the club, however, Ronaldinho and the team failed to capture the form that got them to the final as they bowed out 2–1 to Auxerre due to a last minute goal from Jean-Alain Boumsong. Despite Ronaldinho's performances, the club finished in a disappointing 11th-placed position. Following the season, Ronaldinho declared he wanted to leave the club after the capital club failed to qualify for any European competition.[29]

Barcelona

FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta had promised to bring David Beckham to the club, but following his transfer to Real Madrid, Barcelona entered the running for Ronaldinho and outbid Manchester United for his signature in a €30 million deal.[31][32]

Ronaldinho made his team debut in a friendly against Milan at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., scoring one goal in a 2–0 victory. He scored his first goal in the La Liga on 3 September 2003 against Sevilla.[33] After receiving the ball from his goalkeeper inside his own half, Ronaldinho ran through midfield and dribbled past two Sevilla players before striking the ball from 30 yards which hammered off the underside of the crossbar and back up into the roof of the net.[33] Ronaldinho suffered from injury during the first half of the campaign,[34] and Barcelona slumped to 12th in the league standings midway through the season. Ronaldinho returned from injury and scored 15 goals in La Liga during the 2003–04 season, helping the team ultimately finish second in the league.[35][36]

2004–05 season

Ronaldinho won his first league title in 2004–05, and was named FIFA World Player of the Year on 20 December 2004.[37] His fame was growing with his entertaining and productive play in both the La Liga and the UEFA Champions League. On 8 March 2005, Barcelona were eliminated from the latter competition by Chelsea in the first knockout round, losing 5–4 over two legs.[38] Ronaldinho scored both goals in the 4–2 second leg loss in London, the second a spectacular strike where he feinted to shoot before striking the ball with no back-lift past Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech from 20 yards out.[38]

With his contract expiring in 2008, Ronaldinho was offered an extension until 2014 that would have net him £85 million over nine years,[39] but he turned it down. In September 2005, he signed a two-year extension that contained a minimum-fee release clause that allowed him to leave should a club make an offer to Barcelona of at least £85 million for him.[40]

2005–06 season

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Ronaldinho taking a corner against Celta de Vigo at the Camp Nou in 2005

By the end of the year 2005, Ronaldinho had started to accumulate a host of personal awards. He won the inaugural FIFPro World Player of the Year in September 2005, in addition to being included in the 2005 FIFPro World XI, and being named the 2005 European Footballer of the Year. Also that year, Ronaldinho was voted the FIFA World Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.[37] He became only the third player to win the award more than once, after three-time winners Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane.[37] His domination as the world's best footballer was undisputed as he also won the prestigious Ballon d'Or for the only time in his career.[41]

On 19 November, Ronaldinho scored twice as Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 3–0 on the road in the first leg of El Clásico. After he sealed the match with his second goal, Madrid fans paid homage to his performance by applauding, so rare a tribute only Diego Maradona had ever been granted previously as a Barcelona player at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.[42] Ronaldinho stated, "I will never forget this because it is very rare for any footballer to be applauded in this way by the opposition fans."[42]

The season is considered one of the best in Ronaldinho's career as he was an instrumental part of Barcelona's first Champions League title in 14 years. After winning their group convincingly, Barcelona faced Chelsea in the round of 16 for a rematch of the previous year.[44] Ronaldinho scored a decisive goal in the second leg, going past three Chelsea defenders on the edge of the penalty area before beating the goalkeeper, sealing Barcelona's qualification to the next round.[44] He also contributed one goal in Barcelona's elimination of Benfica in the quarter-finals with a 2–0 home victory. After a 1–0 semifinal aggregate win over Milan, in which Ronaldinho assisted the series' only goal by Ludovic Giuly, Barcelona progressed to the Champions League final, which they won on 17 May 2006 with a 2–1 defeat of Arsenal.[45] Two weeks earlier, Barcelona had clinched their second-straight La Liga title with a 1–0 win over Celta de Vigo, giving Ronaldinho his first career double.[46]

Ronaldinho finished the season with a career-best 26 goals, including seven in the Champions League, and was chosen for the UEFA Team of the Year for the third consecutive time and was named the 2005–06 UEFA Club Footballer of the Year.[35] He was named in the six man shortlist for the 2006 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, and was selected in the FIFA World XI.[47]

2006–07 season

On 25 November 2006, Ronaldinho scored his 50th career league goal against Villarreal, then later scored a second time with an overhead bicycle kick. He later said to reporters that the latter was a goal he had dreamed of scoring since he was a boy.[49] He scored once and set up two others in Barcelona's 4–0 Club World Cup win over Mexico's Club América on 14 December,[50] but Barcelona were defeated 1–0 by Brazilian club Internacional in the final. Ronaldinho was the recipient of the Bronze Ball Award for the competition.

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Ronaldinho with Frank Rijkaard at NASA's Johnson Space Center in 2006

The next day, Ronaldinho finished third in the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year, behind 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro and Zinedine Zidane.[51] Ronaldinho was forced to miss a charity match on 13 March due to an injury he had picked up several days earlier in Barcelona's 3–3 El Clásico draw with Real Madrid.[52] Although Ronaldinho scored his career-best 21 league goals, the team lost the title to Real with a worse head-to-head record, as both teams finished the season with the same number of points.[35][53]

2007–08 season

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After winning every major trophy in the sport, Ronaldinho started to lose focus, partying more and training less, and was sold by Barcelona

Ronaldinho played his 200th career match for Barcelona in a league match against Osasuna on 3 February 2008. His 2007–08 campaign as a whole, however, was plagued by injuries, and a muscle tear in his right leg on 3 April prematurely ended his season.[54] Having been a model professional and devoted himself to training during his hugely successful first three seasons at Barcelona, Ronaldinho's partying lifestyle and lack of dedication to training saw his physical condition decline, with many at the club believing he was now past his prime.[55][56] On 19 May 2008, Barcelona club president Joan Laporta stated that Ronaldinho needed a "new challenge", claiming that he needed a new club if he were to revive his career.[57]

Ronaldinho joined Barca as a toothy-grinned wizard who had the club under his spell for three glorious seasons. He will leave a rather forlorn figure. Whether his magic has been exhausted or he just needs a new challenge remains to be seen.

— Simon Baskett, Reuters, July 2008.[58]

Ronaldinho and Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi each captained a team of international stars in an anti-racism exhibition match in Venezuela on 28 June, which ended in a 7–7 draw. Ronaldinho finished with a pair of goals and two assists in what would be his last match as a Barcelona player.[59] In preparation for the 2010 Joan Gamper Trophy, Ronaldinho sent an open letter to the fans and players of Barcelona, stating that his best years had been the five he spent in the Catalan club.[60] It was a sad moment for him and he later said in an interview that he regretted leaving without playing long enough with Messi.[61]

Milan

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Ronaldinho, David Beckham and Kaká with Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti in 2009

In July 2008, Ronaldinho turned down a £25.5 million offer from Manchester City of the Premier League to join Italian Serie A giants Milan on a three-year contract thought to be worth around £5.1 million (€6.5 million) a year, for €22.05 million plus €1.05 million bonus each season (€24.15 million in 2010).[62][63][64][65] With the number 10 already occupied by teammate Clarence Seedorf, he selected 80 as his jersey number.

Ronaldinho scored his first goal for Milan in a 1–0 derby victory over rival Internazionale on 28 September 2008. His first brace was in a 3–0 win over Sampdoria on 19 October 2008. He scored a 93rd-minute match-winner against Braga in the UEFA Cup group stage on 6 November.[55]

Ronaldinho finished the 2008–09 season at Milan with 10 goals from 32 appearances in all competitions. After a good start to the season, Ronaldinho struggled with fitness, and was often played from the bench to end a disappointing first season for Milan.[55] A perceived lack of dedication in training and a lifestyle of late night partying not befitting of an athlete saw him receive criticism, with Carlo Ancelotti, his coach at Milan in his first season in Italy, commenting, "The decline of Ronaldinho hasn't surprised me. His physical condition has always been very precarious. His talent though has never been in question."[55]

2009–10 season

Ronaldinho's second season did not begin on a high note, although he started nearly every match before finding himself on the bench again. After a while, Ronaldinho rediscovered his form and was arguably Milan's best player of the season. He changed his role from an attacking midfielder to a left winger, a more familiar role.

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Ronaldinho playing for Milan in 2010

On 10 January 2010, Ronaldinho scored two goals against Juventus in an away match, sealing a 3–0 victory for the Rossoneri. In the following match, against Siena on 17 January 2010, Ronaldinho scored his first hat-trick for Milan when he converted a penalty kick, scored with a header from a corner and finished with a wonder goal from 20 yards out.[66] On 16 February, Ronaldinho played his first match against Manchester United in a Champions League game at the San Siro.[67] He scored early in the game to give Milan the lead. Milan ended up losing the game 3–2, with a goal from Paul Scholes and two goals from Wayne Rooney.[67]

Ronaldinho finished the season as the assists leader of Serie A. On a less positive note, however, he missed three penalties in the domestic season to add to one botched kick the previous season. Ronaldinho ended the Serie A campaign scoring two goals against Juventus; Luca Antonini opened the scoring and Milan went on to win 3–0 in manager Leonardo's last game in charge.[68]

Flamengo

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Ronaldinho celebrates scoring for Flamengo in February 2011

After being heavily linked with a move back to his childhood club Grêmio, Ronaldinho joined Flamengo on 11 January 2011 with a contract ending in 2014.[69] During the transfer saga, many reports had linked the former World Player of the Year to joining different clubs, such as LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer, Blackburn Rovers of the Premier League, and Brazilian clubs Corinthians and Palmeiras. He was greeted by more than 20,000 fans at his unveiling at his new club on 13 January 2011.[70]

Ronaldinho scored his first goal for Flamengo in the 3–2 victory against Boavista on 6 February 2011.[71] On 27 February, he converted a second-half free kick for Flamengo to beat Boavista 1–0 and win his first piece of silverware with the team, the Taça Guanabara. Ronaldinho lifted his first trophy with Flamengo after curling in a right-footed shot over the wall in the 71st minute at Engenhão stadium. The goal gave Flamengo its 19th Taça Guanabara title, which earned the Campeonato Carioca title two months later, as the team also won the Taça Rio. On 27 July 2011, Ronaldinho scored a hat-trick in Flamengo's 5–4 away win against rivals Santos, after being 3–0 down inside the first 30 minutes.[72] On 31 May 2012, after being absent for a few days, he sued Flamengo claiming lack of payment for four months and cancelled his contract with the club.[73]

Atlético Mineiro

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Ronaldinho playing for Atlético Mineiro in the Brazilian Série A in October 2012

Ronaldinho made a move to Atlético Mineiro on 4 June 2012 in a six-month contract, just four days after leaving Flamengo. He wore number 49 in reference to his mother's birth year since his preferred number 10 was already assigned to Guilherme in the 2012 season.[74]

Ronaldinho made his debut for Galo on 9 June 2012, playing for 90 minutes in a 1–0 away win against Palmeiras,[75] and scored his first goal for the club on 23 June 2012 against Náutico, from the penalty spot.[76] Ronaldinho led Atlético Mineiro to a good 2012 season, in which the club finished second in the 2012 Brasileirão and qualified for the 2013 Copa Libertadores. Ronaldinho won the Bola de Ouro award, selected as the best player in the league.[77]

The following year, Ronaldinho helped Atlético win the Campeonato Mineiro and led the club to its first title of the Copa Libertadores. Ronaldinho scored four goals and assisted on seven occasions during Atlético's dramatic title run, which included consecutive comebacks from 0–2 first leg defeats in both the semi-finals against Argentinian Newell's Old Boys and the finals against Club Olimpia from Paraguay. Both ties were determined in Atlético's favour after penalty shootouts. Ronaldinho's displays saw him voted the 2013 South American Footballer of the Year.[78] He renewed his contract with Atlético in 2014,[79] and after winning the 2014 Recopa Sudamericana, Ronaldinho left the club in July, reaching an agreement to cancel his contract by mutual consent.[80]

Querétaro

After becoming a free agent, Ronaldinho was offered contracts from English Conference South club Basingstoke Town and newly formed Indian Super League franchise Chennai Titans through their co-owner Prashant Agarwal,[81][82][83] but eventually signed a two-year contract with Mexican club Querétaro on 5 September 2014.[84][85] Ronaldinho made his debut for Querétaro in a 1–0 loss to Tigres UANL where he missed a penalty kick.[86] In his next match, however, against Guadalajara, he had a much better game, setting up Camilo Sanvezzo to score as well as scoring himself from a penalty kick in a 4–1 win.[87] On 30 October 2014, he scored a free kick against Atlas during an away match at the Estadio Jalisco.[88]

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Interior of the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City where Ronaldinho was applauded by opposition fans for the second time in his career

On 18 April 2015, Ronaldinho scored twice against Liga MX title-holders América in an away game at the Estadio Azteca, in which his team won 4–0.[89] All of the spectators, mostly consisting of América supporters, gave a standing ovation to Ronaldinho after his goals had brought him to tears. This was the second time in Ronaldinho's career he had received such an ovation from opposing fans (after Madrid fans had applauded his performance in a Barcelona shirt in 2005), and after the match, Ronaldinho stated in an interview, "It is an emotion to live more. I had an ovation at the Bernabéu and now here. I never imagined this. It is something that makes me like Mexico even more and I feel right at home."[90][91]

Ronaldinho scored two penalties in consecutive matches, the second giving Querétaro the classification to the Liga MX playoffs.[92] On 17 May 2015, Querétaro progressed to the semi-finals after defeating Veracruz 4–3 aggregate. In the second match, Ronaldinho scored a free kick with the help of the opponent's goalkeeper who made contact with the ball.[93] In June 2015, Ronaldinho, now 35, announced his departure from the club and thanked the Mexican people and fans of Querétaro: “I want to thank all the Mexican nation for all the days that I have lived with people so special, you will be forever in my heart. Thank you very much the Nation Gallos Blancos, which made me very proud to wear this shirt and defend this club."[94]

Fluminense

On 11 July 2015, Ronaldinho announced his return to Brazil and signed an 18-month contract with Fluminense,[95] but on 28 September, Ronaldinho reached a mutual agreement with the club to terminate the deal.[96] He made nine appearances during his two-month stint at the club, failing to impress and being heavily criticized by the fans.[97] Fluminense sporting director Mario Bittencourt stated, "Ronaldinho asked us for a meeting. He respectfully told us he didn't feel he was able to perform as good as he wanted and that it was a bad situation for him. He made a great gesture in saying he wasn't being the player he felt he could be right now. I'll never speak about whether or not he is retiring. That's not something you say about a player of his calibre. He was always spectacular, as player and person."[97]

International career

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Ronaldinho takes a corner kick for Brazil during the 2006 World Cup

Youth teams

Ronaldinho is one of few Brazilian players to have played at every international age level. In 1997, he was part of the first Brazilian team to win the FIFA U-17 World Championship, which was held in Egypt, in which his first goal was a penalty against Austria in the first group match, which Brazil won 7–0.[98] Ronaldinho finished with two goals and was awarded the Bronze Ball award as Brazil scored a total of 21 goals while only conceding 2.[98]

1999 was a busy year for Ronaldinho in terms of international play. First he appeared in the South American Youth Championship, where he scored three goals and helped the U20s to reach third place.[99] Then he took part in that year's FIFA World Youth Championship in Nigeria, scoring his first goal in Brazil's last group match.[100] In the round of 16, he scored two first-half goals in a 4–0 win over Croatia, and finished with three goals as Brazil were eliminated by Uruguay in the quarter-finals.[100]

Early success

On 26 June, three days before the start of the 1999 Copa América, he earned his first cap for Brazil in a 3–0 win over Latvia, and he scored one goal during Brazil's victorious Copa América campaign. One week after the conclusion of the Copa América, he was called up for the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, in which he scored in every match except the final, including a hat-trick in an 8–2 semi-final rout of Saudi Arabia.[101] In the final, Brazil lost 4–3 to Mexico. Ronaldinho won the Golden Ball award for the best player in tournament as well as the Golden Boot award for the tournament top-scorer.[101]

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Ronaldinho with Brazilian president Lula at Wembley Stadium, London

In 2000, Ronaldinho participated in the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, with the U23 team. Earlier that year, Ronaldinho led Brazil to win the Pre-Olympic Tournament, scoring nine goals in seven matches. In the Olympics, however, Brazil were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Cameroon, who later won the gold medal.[102] Ronaldinho appeared four times and scored only one goal, which came in the quarter-final defeat by Cameroon.[102]

2002 World Cup glory

Ronaldinho participated in his first World Cup in 2002, as part of a formidable offensive unit with Ronaldo and Rivaldo, dubbed the "Three Rs", who were also on the 1999 Copa América winning squad.[103] The World Cup was held in Korea and Japan, and Ronaldinho appeared in five matches during the tournament and scored two goals, as well as contributing several important assists. His first goal came in the group stage match against China PR, which Brazil won 4–0.[104]

The most memorable match in Ronaldinho's World Cup career took place in the quarter-final against England on 21 June.[105] With Brazil trailing after Michael Owen's 23-minute strike, Ronaldinho turned the game around. Having received the ball inside his own half, Ronaldinho ran at the England defence and wrong footed star defender Ashley Cole with a trademark step over before passing the ball to Rivaldo on the edge of the penalty area to score the equalising goal just before half-time.[106] Then, in the 50th minute, Ronaldinho took a free-kick from 40 yards out which curled into the top left corner of the net, completely surprising England's goalkeeper David Seaman, giving Brazil a 2–1 lead.[105] Seven minutes later, however, he was controversially sent-off for a foul on England's defender Danny Mills. Ronaldinho was suspended for the semi-final, but returned to Brazil's starting lineup for the 2–0 victory over Germany in the final as Brazil won its record fifth World Cup title.[107]

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Ronaldinho against Switzerland's Xavier Margairaz

2005 Confederations Cup title

Ronaldinho's next international tournament was the 2003 Confederations Cup, in which he went scoreless as Brazil were eliminated in the group stage. The following year, he was dropped from Brazil's 2004 Copa América squad, as coach Carlos Alberto Parreira decided to rest his stars and used a largely reserve squad.[108]

After falling short in 1999 and 2003, Ronaldinho was the captain of Brazil and led his team to its second ever Confederations Cup title in 2005. He converted a penalty kick in a 3–2 semi-final win against host Germany and was named Man of the Match in a 4–1 victory over archrival Argentina in the final on 29 June.[109] Ronaldinho scored three goals in the tournament and is currently tied with Mexican forward Cuauhtémoc Blanco as the tournament's all-time scorer with nine goals.[110]

2006 World Cup disappointment

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Ronaldinho with Brazil in 2006

For the 2006 World Cup finals, Ronaldinho was part of Brazil's much-publicized "magic quartet" of offensive players alongside Adriano, Ronaldo and Kaká, which was expected to provide the "Joga Bonito" style of play that was the focus of an extensive advertising campaign by Nike leading up to the tournament. However, the group finished with only six goals in five games, with Ronaldinho himself going scoreless and finishing with only one assist (for Gilberto's goal in a 4–1 group stage victory over Japan), as he turned in his worst collective performance in his international career. Brazil endured a disappointing campaign that culminated in a 1–0 loss to France in the quarter-finals, during which the Seleção had only one shot on goal for the entire match.[111]

The team was harshly criticized by Brazilian fans and media following their return home. On 3 July, two days after Brazil's elimination, vandals immolated and destroyed a 7.5-metre (23-foot) tall fiberglass and resin statue of Ronaldinho in Chapecó.[112] The statue had been erected in 2004 to celebrate his first FIFA World Player of the Year award. That same day, Ronaldinho, joined by Adriano, returned to the city of Barcelona and held a party at his home, which was continued into the early morning hours at a nightclub. This aggravated the hard feelings of many Brazilian fans, who believed that they were betrayed by the lack of effort from the squad.[113]

2008 Olympic medal

On 24 March 2007, Ronaldinho scored twice in a 4–0 win over Chile, which marked his first goal since the 2005 Confederations Cup final and thus ended a scoreless streak that lasted nearly two years.[114] He was not called up for the 2007 Copa América after asking to be excused from the tournament due to fatigue.[115] On 18 October, he was controversially benched by Barcelona after he was late returning to Spain following Brazil's 5–0 friendly win over Ecuador. He and several Brazil players celebrated the win by partying through the night at a posh Rio de Janeiro nightclub. Ronaldinho left at 11 am the next morning, allegedly in the trunk of a car in order to avoid the media.[116]

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Ronaldinho at the 2008 Summer Olympics

On 7 July 2008, Ronaldinho was named in Brazil's 2008 Summer Olympics squad as one of the over-age players.[117] Barcelona initially blocked the move because of his then-upcoming Champions League commitments with the club, but the decision was later nullified following Ronaldinho's transfer to Milan, who in turn permitted him to make the trip to Beijing, China.[118] Ronaldinho captained the team, and he scored his only two goals in a 5–0 victory over New Zealand before Brazil were beaten by Argentina in the semi-final. Brazil finished with the bronze medal after defeating Belgium 3–0 in the bronze medal match.[119]

2010 and 2014 World Cup absence

Despite having returned to good form and being named as a member of the 30-man provisional squad that was submitted to FIFA on 11 May 2010,[120] he was not named in coach Dunga's final squad of 23 for the Brazilian squad in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup[121] despite his deep desire to participate in the competition.[122] Critics claimed that the exclusion of players such as Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato, Adriano and Ronaldo signaled a move away from the classic Brazilian attacking "Jogo Bonito" style of play.[123] At the tournament, Brazil was eliminated by the Netherlands in the quarter-final.[124]

In September 2011, Ronaldinho made his return to the national team under coach Mano Menezes in a friendly against Ghana at Fulham's Craven Cottage,[125] playing the full 90 minutes in a 1–0 win for Brazil. He then had solid performances in back to back friendlies against Argentina in the same month. In October, he performed well against Mexico in a friendly, scoring a free kick to equalize after Dani Alves was sent off. Brazil went on to win the match with a goal from Marcelo.[126]

Ronaldinho's good form continued in 2013, and in January he was unexpectedly called up by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari[127] for a friendly against England played on 6 February at Wembley Stadium as part of The Football Association (FA)'s 150th anniversary.[128] Ronaldinho started in what was his 100th cap (including non-official matches), and had a chance to score from the penalty kick, but his shot was saved by Joe Hart. Brazil lost the match 1–2.[129] He was again called up for the Seleção, being named captain of the national team for an international friendly with Chile on 24 April 2013.[130] However, Ronaldinho was not selected for the national team for the 2013 Confederations Cup and he was also omitted from Scolari's 2014 World Cup finals squad.[131]

Style of play

Ronaldinho-fcb-2005-2006-home-shirt.jpg
Barcelona 2005-06 season home shirt. Ronaldinho wore the number 10 for much of his club and international career.

Ronaldinho is regarded as one of the greatest and most skilful players of his generation.[132][133] Due to his ability to score and create goals, he is capable of playing in several offensive positions, on either wing or in a central position.[134][135] Throughout his career, he has been deployed as a forward, a winger, although he usually plays as a classic number 10 in an attacking midfield role.[135][136] Despite primarily being a creative player, he is an accurate finisher with either foot, both from inside and outside the penalty area, and is also a free-kick and penalty kick specialist.[135][137] Throughout his career, Ronaldinho has been praised in particular for his technical skills and creativity; due to his pace, acceleration, agility, balance, ball control, and dribbling ability, he is capable of beating players when undertaking individual runs, often using feints in one on one situations.[135][138][139] Among his repertoire of moves, Ronaldinho is one of the best exponents of the "Elastico", a move he learned by watching videos of one of his idols, the 1970s Brazilian star Rivelino.[140][141]

ESPN has described Ronaldinho as being "skillful by nature, his tricks are unparalleled and he is wonderful with the ball at his feet. One of the coolest players in pressure situations" and a "fast, brash, skilful, tricky, an uninhibited playmaker" who provides "a mix of goals, assists, skills and a large repertoire of crafty moves".[142] Former Portugal midfield playmaker Rui Costa has said of his vision and passing ability: "There are not many players who can offer goalscoring passes like he can. He is just marvellous. He is a rare case of an assist man who can provide the ball from anywhere."[142]

Outside football

Ronaldinho 11feb2007.jpg
Ronaldinho (pictured with Barcelona in 2007) has been a UNICEF ambassador since February 2006

Ronaldinho has had endorsements with many companies, including Nike, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, EA Sports, Gatorade and Danone.[43][143] One of the world's highest paid players, in 2006 he earned over $19 million from endorsements.[144] Having endorsed Pepsi for much of his career and appeared in commercials with David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho signed a deal with Coca-Cola in 2011, however this was terminated in July 2012 after he was caught drinking Pepsi in a news conference.[145]

Ronaldinho has featured in EA Sports' FIFA video game series, appearing on the cover of FIFA Football 2004, FIFA 06, FIFA 07, FIFA 08 and FIFA 09.[143] At the beginning of his career Ronaldinho signed a lucrative 10-year deal with sportswear company Nike (wearing Nike Tiempo R10 boots designed for him).[43] He has appeared in Nike commercials, including the 2002 "Secret Tournament" commercial (branded "Scopion KO") directed by Terry Gilliam.[146] His 2005 Nike advertisement, where he is given a new pair of boots and then proceeds to juggle a football and appears to repeatedly volley it against the crossbar of a goal and recover it without the ball touching the ground, went viral on YouTube, becoming the site's first video to reach one million views.[147]

A wax sculpture of Ronaldinho was unveiled at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong in December 2007.[148] Ronaldinho has had an official role with UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, since February 2006.[149] In 2011, he was recruited by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS to promote awareness among young people of the disease and how to avoid it.[150] In March 2015, Ronaldinho was the sixth most popular sportsperson on Facebook, behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, Beckham, Neymar and Kaká, with 31 million Facebook fans.[151][152]

Career statistics

Club

As of match played 26 September 2015[153]
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National Cup Continental Other[nb 1] Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Grêmio 1998 Brasileirão 14 1 2 0 15 3 17 4 48 8
1999 Brasileirão 17 6 3 0 4 2 24 15 48 23
2000 Brasileirão 21 14 6 6 22 21 49 41
Total 52 21 11 6 19 5 63 40 145 72
Paris Saint-Germain 2001–02 Division 1 28 9 6 2 14 2 48 13
2002–03 Ligue 1 27 8 7 3 4 1 38 12
Total 55 17 13 5 18 3 86 25
Barcelona 2003–04 La Liga 32 15 6 3 7 4 45 22
2004–05 La Liga 35 9 0 0 7 4 42 13
2005–06 La Liga 29 17 2 1 12 7 2 1 45 26
2006–07 La Liga 32 21 4 0 11 3 2 0 49 24
2007–08 La Liga 17 8 1 0 8 1 26 9
Total 145 70 13 4 45 19 4 1 207 94
Milan 2008–09 Serie A 29 8 1 0 6 2 36 10
2009–10 Serie A 36 12 0 0 7 3 43 15
2010–11 Serie A 11 0 0 0 5 1 16 1
Total 76 20 1 0 18 6 95 26
Flamengo 2011 Brasileirão 31 14 5 1 3 2 13 4 52 21
2012 Brasileirão 2 1 0 0 8 2 10 4 20 7
Total 33 15 5 1 11 4 23 8 72 28
Atlético Mineiro 2012 Brasileirão 32 9 0 0 32 9
2013 Brasileirão 14 7 2 0 14 4 8 6 38 17
2014 Brasileirão 2 0 9 1 4 0 15 1
Total 48 16 2 0 23 5 12 6 85 27
Querétaro 2014–15 Liga MX 25 8 4 0 29 8
Fluminense 2015 Brasileirão 7 0 2 0 9 0
Career total 441 167 51 16 134 42 102 55 728 280
  1. ^ Includes Brazilian state competitions and national super cups.

International

As of match played 24 April 2013[154]
Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
Brazil 1999 13 7
2000 5 1
2001 4 1
2002 10 4
2003 8 2
2004 10 6
2005 12 6
2006 9 0
2007 11 5
2008 2 0
2009 3 0
2010 1 0
2011 5 1
2012 1 0
2013 3 0
Total 97 33

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