Before Neymar, before Messi and Ronaldo, there was one player who ruled world football – Ronaldinho
It’s easy to forget that there was a time before Messi and Ronaldo. They have been so dominant for so long that it feels like they’ve always been here.
But without Ronaldinho, we wouldn’t have the Messi and Ronaldo that we’ve come to take for granted. Especially not Messi.
“BARCELONA WASN’T DOING THAT WELL DURING THAT TIME BUT THAT ALL CHANGED WHEN [RONALDINHO] GOT HERE. I THINK HE’S THE REASON THE CLUB HAS CHANGED.”
Ronaldinho put Barcelona back on the map; he built the kingdom that Messi now rules over.
Here’s where it all began for Ronaldinho.
Ronaldinho was born in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. It wasn’t until he started his professional career with Brazilian club Grêmio that people really began to take notice.
Watch him embarrass Brazilian legend (and current national team manager) Dunga.
Arsenal flirted with signing Ronaldinho in 2001 but the deal fell through due to work permit issues.
The Gunners’ loss ended up being a coup for Paris Saint-German.
Ronaldinho signed a 5-year deal with PSG after they paid €5 million to acquire his rights. During his second year, he swapped the number 21 jersey he wore the first year for the iconic number 10 we’re used to seeing him in.
After PSG failed to qualify for any major European competitions following Ronaldinho’s second year there, he announced that he wanted to leave the club.
The club paid PSG a reported €30 million transfer fee before the 2003-2004 season and Ronaldinho went to work.
His first La Liga goal, a 30-yard screamer against Sevilla, was the beginning of the legend of Ronaldinho as we know him.
The following year, in 2004, he won the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
In 2005, Ronaldinho won all the awards. He won the inaugural FIFPro World Player of the Year award, the European Footballer of the Year award, the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
“I LEARNED SO MUCH FROM HIM AND AM EXTREMELY GRATEFUL FOR THE WAY HE TREATED ME FROM THE VERY START. I THINK THE CLUB SHOULD BE GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING RONALDINHO DID.”
He led Barcelona to their first Champions League title in 12 years, winning La Liga along the way.
Ronaldinho would spend two more years incredible years at Barcelona but none would eclipse his magical 2005-2006 season.
Ronaldinho spurned a £25.5 million offer from Manchester City to join Italian powerhouse A.C. Milan.
Concerns about his fitness and hard-partying lifestyle swirled in the background during his time at Milan but he was still a beast on the field and an absolute spectacle to behold.
Following the 2010 season, Ronaldinho returned to Brazil where he bounced around from Flamengo to Atlético Mineiro to Querétaro and briefly Fluminese.
Brazilian National Team
Ronaldinho was a feature of the Brazilian national team for a decade, but nothing eclipses his free kick against England during Brazil’s fabled 2002 World Cup campaign
Brazil went on to win the 2002 World Cup on the backs of the “Three Rs”: Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho.
We’ll never see another player quite like Ronaldinho. For awhile, he stood alone, at the top of the footballing world, smiling down at the rest of us.
He’s still smiling…