Football fans may not recognize the name Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, but they sure know who Ronaldinho was. The 37-year-old Brazilian ball magician recently announced he’s retiring for good from the game so we’ll take a look back at a dozen of the finest moments of his career. There were plenty to choose from since the attacker from Porto Alegre was a creative genius on the pitch even though he was also known to love the nightlife.
Ronaldinho was just as effective no matter if he was used as a midfielder, winger or forward. He dazzled fans in South America, Mexico, Europe and on the world stage during his career with clubs such as Gremio, Milan, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Fluminese, Atletico Mineiro, Queretaro and Flamengo, and was recognized for his greatness with a Ballon d’Or award and a pair of FIFA World Player of the Year nods. Here are 12 of Ronaldinho’s best career moments in no particular order.
12. On-Field Production
Although he was an excellent attacking player, Ronaldinho appeared to gain as much pleasure setting up a teammate as he did scoring a goal himself. He netted some beauties and was one of the best free-kick takers the world has ever seen. He officially banged in 280 goals during his club career in 728 games with the bulk of them, 94, coming in 207 outings with Barcelona. The 5-foot-11-inch midfielder/forward also found the back of the net 33 times in 97 contests with the Brazilian senior squad and added a further 23 in 38 matches while suiting up for his homeland’s Under-17, 20, and 23 teams. It would definitely be interesting to know how many assists he recorded during his glorious career, but unfortunately that stat has only been introduced to soccer over the past few years.
11. A Goal, Assist and Sending Off in World Cup vs England
The 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea was quite memorable for Ronaldinho as he scored a goal, set one up and was then sent off in a 2-1 quarterfinal win over England. This unique performance could be compared to a Gordie Howe hat trick in ice hockey. A young Michael Owen scored a cracker to put England in front in Shizouka after 23 minutes, but Ronaldinho then weaved his way through the English defense to set up Rivaldo just before half time. Ronaldinho then scored an amazing free kick from about 40 yards out then he fooled goalkeeper David Seaman and lobbed the ball over his head in the 50th minute. However, just eight minutes later he was sent off for a controversial red card for a foul on Danny Mills. Ronaldinho was back for the final though to help Brazil capture the World Cup for the fifth time.
10. Peaking at Barcelona
There’s no doubt Ronaldinho was a star everywhere he played, but he was at his absolute best when he suited up for Barcelona between 2003 and 2008. Barca fans may have been a bit disappointed initially since club president Joan Laporta said he was going to sign David Beckham. That didn’t work out and Ronaldinho was brought in instead. Supporters soon forgot about Beckham when the Brazilian showed off his exhilarating dribbling skills with a goal against Sevilla in his Spanish debut. His amazing run was capped off with a 30-yard drive which ended up in the top corner of the net. The newcomer helped Barcelona capture the Champions League, two Spanish Super Cups and a pair of La Liga championships while at the Nou Camp. All good things must come to an end though and Ronaldinho was sold to Milan after five years in Barcelona where he scored 94 times in 207 games.
9. 2008 Olympic Medal
Many fans may have forgotten that Ronaldinho also played in the Olympics as he captained Brazil’s side at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China. He made the team as one of it’s three overage players, but was only able to play after leaving Barcelona for AC Milan. His Spanish league club didn’t want him to go because of upcoming European Champions League matches. However, once he was transferred that summer, Milan didn’t have any problem with him playing in China. Ronaldinho scored twice in the tournament, but Brazil was downed in the semifinal by Lionel Messi and arch enemy Argentina. However, Ronaldinho and his young teammates managed to regroup in time and beat Belgium decisively 3-0 to go home to Brazil with bronze medals around their necks.
8. Toe Jam Football vs Chelsea
Nobody really knew what the late John Lennon was talking about when the lyrics “toe jam football” showed up in the Beatles’ classic Come Together. But perhaps he had envisioned Ronaldinho’s classic strike against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London during a Champions League match in the 2004/05 campaign. The goalscorer supreme had the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box and made a couple of moves with his body before poking the ball past goalkeeper Petr Cech without lifting his right foot for back lift or a follow through. Chelsea and their supporters were stunned, but Barcelona would have to wait another year to be crowned champions of Europe with Ronaldinho in the lineup as Chelsea won the match 4-2 and the two-legged tie 5-4 on aggregate.
7. Bicycle Kick Goal vs Villarreal
One of Ronaldinho’s most memorable markers came back in November of 2006 when he put Barcelona 4-0 up on Villarreal late in the first half. This was his famous bicycle kick goal which earned ongoing praise from the television commentators broadcasting the game as well as those in attendance at the Nou Camp. Ronaldinho gives the goalie no chance with this spectacular kick and then goes on to celebrate his moment of magic. It seems fans all across the world enjoyed this goal as much as Ronaldinho did since this particular video has well over 1.7 million hits on You Tube. This was just once instance of the man’s technical brilliance and one of the best if not the best goal that his feet produced.
6. Goal of the Year in France
European fans were first treated to Ronaldinho’s exceptional skills when he arrived at Paris Saint-Germain in the 2001-02 season after leaving Gremio in Brazil. He would go on to score 25 times in 86 appearances over two seasons in the French capital before moving on to Barcelona. It didn’t take long for Europeans to be left in awe of the Brazilian and one of his best moments came in 2003 when Ronaldinho was awarded with the goal of the year honors in the French Ligue 1. His sparkling solo effort game in a match against Guingamp. Ronaldinho flips the ball over an opponent to himself, then slips and slides past about six opponents before finally beating the helpless Guingamp goaltender. This piece of mastery earned him 29.5 per cent of the votes and the well-deserved award.
5. Standing O From Opposing Fans
While the El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona is one of the most competitive derbies in world football, Ronaldinho managed to earn a standing ovation from Madrid fans with his performance at the Santiago Bernabéu back in November of 2005. The Los Blancos faithful showed their appreciation for his tremendous talent when Ronaldinho scored two brilliant goals in a decisive 3-0 win by the hated visitors. The last two goals of the game showed a footballing wizard at the absolute peak of his powers and the fans felt he had to be applauded no matter what team he was playing for. Many fans feel Ronaldinho’s individual performance in this match was one of the greatest displays of creativity in the history of the sport.
4. Return to Brazil
Once Ronaldinho left Barcelona for AC Milan and Italy following the 2007/08 campaign, things weren’t really the same anymore. He struggled for production during his two-and-a-half-year stint there and seemed to be on the downside of his career. He picked up his game when he returned home to Brazil though and local fans were delighted when he signed with Flamengo of Rio de Janeiro in 2011. He netted 21 times in 52 appearances with his new squad the first year back and had rediscovered the form that made him one of the most exciting players on the planet. Check out the video below to see Ronaldinho spark a Flamengo comeback after being down 3-0 with a hat trick to beat Neymar and Santos 5-4 in 2011
3. National Team Recall
With Ronaldinho regaining his touch back in Brazil with Flamengo it wasn’t long before he earned a recall to the country’s national team in September of 2011. Ronaldinho and his fans were disappointed when he wasn’t selected for the 2010 World Cup squad in South Africa, but it appeared he now had a lifeline for the 2014 event to be held in his homeland. Ronaldinho played another eight games for Brazil, but manager Luiz Felipe Scolari then broke his heart by leaving him out of the 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup sides. Brazil paid for the omission as they were hammered 7-1 by eventual World Cup champions Germany in the semifinals. That also marked the end of the international career for one of Brazil’s most beloved players.
2. Team Silverware
For all of his individual skills and talent, Ronaldinho was still an excellent team player. He won just about everything possible during his career as he helped his squads haul in numerous trophies. These include the 2001 UEFA Intertoto Cup with Paris Saint-Germain as well as the 2004/05, 2005/06 La Liga titles, the 2005 and 2006 Supercopa de España and the 2005/06 European Champions League while starring with Barcelona. Once he reached Italy he helped AC Milan capture the Serie A championship in the 2010/11 campaign and upon his return to Brazil, Ronaldinho helped Atlético Mineiro win the 2013 Copa Libertadores and the 2014 Recopa Sudamericana. In addition, while representing his homeland he helped Brazil win the 1999 Copa América, the 2002 World Cup and the 2005 Confederations Cup. Ronaldinho started out his international career as a youngster by capturing the 1997 Under-17 World Championship.
1. Individual Recognition
Yes, football’s a team game, but there’s no shame in being recognized as one of the world’s greatest all-time players. Between 2004 and 2006 Ronaldinho arguably the best player on the planet and was at his peak. His performances for Brazil and Barcelona during this time span were recognized by experts across the globe and in 2004 and 2005 he took home the FIFA World Player of the World Award. In addition, he captured the Ballon d’Or award for his play in 2005. Ronaldinho was named to the FIFA World XI and the UEFA Team of the Year three times each and won the 2006 UEFA Club Footballer of the Year Award. And let’s not forget being named to the 2002 World Cup All Star Squad. His list of awards is endless and Ronaldinho is one of just eight footballers who have won a World Cup, European Champions League and Ballon d’Or award.