“He has stopped, it is ended,” confirmed Roberto Assis, the brother of Ronaldinho on Tuesday. The Brazilian superstar has not played for a professional team since leaving Fluminense in 2015. But now with confirmation that he won’t be on the pitch in a professional manner leaves one feeling nostalgic with memories of exactly how gifted the 37-year-old was.
A magician who would make you smile. Adored by millions, he would consistently perform tricks, turns and touches that would almost defy physics. His career was stunning with Ballon d’Or and World Cup winners medals along his plethora of silverware that he won during his career.
Starting his career at Gremio in his native Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, it was very clear from an early age that the skinny youngster had buckets of talent. His move to PSG in 2001 and subsequent performances didn’t go unnoticed by the world’s biggest clubs including Manchester United. But in 2003, he arrived at Barcelona and it was at the Catalan club that Ronaldinho became a global superstar.
There was a change at that time at Barcelona. Along with the Brazilian’s arrival, saw new club president in Joan Laporta and a new manager in Frank Rijkaard. The falling attendances and questionable football turned around quickly during that new era for Barça as they bounced back to become a successful club.
Ronaldinho played a colossal role on the pitch then. He was a team player and his influence was infectious. But he did it with such style and his dazzling displays absolutely floored those watching in the ground or on television.
And he was humble too. He had every right to be arrogant, but it wasn’t in his nature. “The best in the world?” the Brazilian said. “I’m not even the best at Barça”. He was referring to an 18-year-old Argentinian kid in the squad.
Never forget that in the height of his career with Barcelona, this is a player that got a standing ovation from Real Madrid supporters following a superb goal scored against Los Blancos. Think about that for a minute.
His star didn’t shine for as long as one hoped and by 2008, club president Joan Laporta stated that Ronaldinho “needed a new challenge”. He has developed a taste for Barcelona’s nightlife which saw his dedication to his physical condition decline slowly. He signed for AC Milan in July 2008.
After a good start, he struggled with fitness at the Rossoneri. “The decline of Ronaldinho hasn’t surprised me,” said manager Carlo Ancelotti. “His physical condition has always been very precarious. His talent though has never been in question.”
His final season at Milan during the 2009-2010 season, it became very clear that his star wasn’t shining anywhere nearly a brightly as it once did during his Barcelona years. But he finished that season as a winner of Serie A as well as the league’s leader of assists.
He returned to his native Brazil in January 2011 and signed for Flamengo before joining Atlético Mineiro a little over a year later. It was at the latter where Ronaldinho seemed to be enjoying his football again. He won the Bola de Ouro – the Brazilian league’s player of the year – in 2012. The following year he helped his club then win the Campeonato Mineiro as well the Copa Libertadores. He was then voted as the 2013 South America Player of the Year.
He moved to Mexico and joined Querétaro in September 2014. He only played for one season and turned out for the side 29 times, scoring eight goals in the process. But it was during a game in April 2015 against Liga MX leaders Club América scored two of them and was given a standing ovation by the entire crowd (which was almost all opposing supporters) inside the enormous Azteca Stadium.
Most players will never get a standing ovation from opposing supporters. Ronaldinho got it twice.
His final club was back in his native Brazil and with Fluminense. But he only turned out nine times over a two month period for the Rio de Janeiro-based club. It had become clear that he simply wasn’t the player he once was and was heavily criticized by fans of the club and left the side by mutual agreement in September 2015. He would never play professionally again.
These days kids (and indeed adults) argue about who is better – Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Some would argue that Ronaldinho in his prime was better than both of them.
“Ronaldinho was far more gifted than Leo or Cristiano,” former Barcelona and Portugal midfielder Deco said in 2016. “He was a natural with special ability. Whenever we gave the ball to him, the moves and goals were from a different world.”
He certainly was from a different world indeed.
This video sums the man up. The players and staff from Raja Casablanca, his peers, stand around him in awe. Completely star struck and try touch the man to ensure he’s real and not a godlike invention that exists only on tv.
Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)