Ronaldo de Assis Moreira was born on the 21st of March, 1980 in Porto Alegre, capital of the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. He was the youngest of three children born to Joao de Assis Moreira, a shipyard worker and Miguelina, a salesperson who used to sell cosmetics before studying to be a nurse. He shares his birthday with the legendary Ayrton Senna, who dominated F-1 before his untimely death in the early 90's. Joao once played for Cruzeiro, and he encouraged both his sons to take an active interest in the beautiful game.
Joao's second son was given the name of Ronaldinho in order to differentiate between himself and Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, also better known to the world as Ronaldo. Ronaldo himself was known as Ronaldinho when Ronaldo Guiaro was called Ronaldo, and at that time Ronaldinho also had the word Gaucho attached to his name. Ronaldinho is Portuguese for ''little Ronaldo''.
Roberto Assis, Ronaldinho's elder brother was a pretty good footballer himself. He played for Gremio under Luiz Felipe Scolari before injuries forced him out of the game at an early age. With his father, who had died when Ronaldinho was 8, having been a supporter of Gremio as well, it was but natural that Ronaldinho joined the club. He starred in Brazil's first ever win at the U-17 Championships, held in Egypt in 1997. Ronaldinho made his first senior appearance for Gremio at the Copa Libertadores in 1998.
Ronaldinho's greatest assets have been his ball control, agility and trickery. He can dribble and pass like few people can, and defenders can feel like utter fools when they are up against him. He slowly made a name for himself at Gremio, and was inducted into the Brazilian team in 1999. He made his international debut against Latvia in June 1999, and was part of the Brazilian team which won the Copa America in the same year. He scored one goal in Brazil's 7-0 thrashing of Venezuela in the group stages. He won both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot at the 1999 Confederations Cup. He scored in every game Brazil played, and missed the final due to injury, where they lost to Mexico.
As the 21st century started, news of Ronaldinho's abilities spread far and wide. Despite interest from England, he decided to move to France to join Paris St.Germain at the end of the 2001 season. He played alongside the likes of Jay Jay Okocha and Nicolas Anelka at PSG under manager Luis Fernandez. The 2002 World Cup firmly established Ronaldinho as a man destined for great things. His goal knocked England out at the quarterfinal stage - a freekick from the right which was completely misjudged by opposition goalkeeper David Seaman. Brazil went on to beat Germany in the final, and clubs started queueing up for the playmaker. With PSG not winning trophies in Europe, he had to make a move to further his career. Although Manchester United and FC Barcelona were both interested in his services, he transferred to the Catalans for a fee of £21 million.
The move to Barcelona was a very significant one in terms of the power shift in the world of football. Barcelona was in a mini crisis period, outshone domestically by bitter rivals Real Madrid. New president Joan Laporta had promised to bring in changes at the club, and the signing of Ronaldinho from PSG on a 5 year contract was one of those. Laporta had initially wanted to bring in David Beckham, who snubbed the Catalans and moved to the Bernabeu. He was another player in the list of famous R's to play for Barcelona - Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo had also played before at the Nou Camp. The success of his childhood idols in Spain might have been one reason why he decided to join the club.
Ronaldinho first played in a Barca jersey against AC Milan in America, scoring the second goal for the Catalans. He helped Barcelona to a second place in the league in the 2003-2004 season, despite being injured for most part of the first half. Ronaldinho epitomises the way the beautiful game should be played. Along with Deco, Samuel Etoo, Ludovic Giuly and Lionel Messi, he transformed Barcelona into a supremely gifted attacking side.
There is probably no limit to Ronaldinho's skills. The ability to play comes to him naturally, and the ball looks alive when at his feet- something similar to magic for extremely gifted magicians, you could say. He virtually conjured a goal out of nowhere, toe punting the goal past a stunned Chelsea defence and Petr Cech in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. To toe punt is an extremely difficult thing to do, and requires extreme accuracy. It was therefore no surprise that when Ronaldinho made his move, the rest of the players just stood where they were and watched awestruck.
Barcelona won the La Liga twice in a row, in 2005 and 2006. They also won the Spanish cup in those two years, and also added the Champions League to their trophy cabinet by beating Arsenal in May 2006. Ronaldinho had a part in everything good that happened at the club. Although the 2006 World Cup campaign was a disappointment for him and the national side, there is no doubt that Ronaldinho will want to have another shot in the next edition to be held in South Africa.
Good things, as they say, do not last. Somewhere down the line, the dream marriage between Barcelona and Ronaldinho started developing cracks. Ronaldinho was accused of not being fit, and indeed, when we saw him without his shirt at the end of a La Liga game, he was not certainly the lean athlete he had been earlier. Ronaldinho's desire to enjoy Barcelona's night life was not appreciated by Frank Riijkard, and his form started dipping. Barcelona lost out on the 2006-07 and 2007-08 La Liga titles to bitter rivals Real Madrid. The 2007-08 season saw Ronaldinho troubled by injuries, and for the first time in December 2007, against Espanyol, he did not start despite being fully fit.
From winning the FIFA World Player twice, Ronaldinho had to be content with a fifth placed finish in 2007. He was not called up for for the 2007 Copa America by new coach Dunga, which Brazil won by beating Argentina.
In April 2008, Ronaldinho tore a muscle in his right leg and missed the rest of Barcelona's season, including their Champions League semifinal against Manchester United. Rumours flew thick and fast about his future, and Manchester City, Inter Milan and A.C.Milan were among the clubs interested. He was eventually sold to AC Milan for 21 million euros, and took the No.80 jersey as Clarence Seedorf already had the No.10 jersey at the San Siro.
He has shown glimpses of his former abilities at Milan, and scored his first goal for the Rossoneri in the city derby against Inter in September 2008.
Apart from his individual abilities, his mere presence on the field instills a new level of confidence in his teammates, and the opposition mentally loses the game even before it has started. It is amazing what one man can do, and words are not enough to describe the man that Ronnie is. He is part of Pele's list of ''125 Greatest living footballers''. In a survey conducted by a Brazilian magazine, he was also inducted into the Gremio all time favourite team.
Ronaldinho has a son Joao, named after his late father. The boy's mother is Janaina Mendes.
With his trademark grin and supreme control with the ball, Ronaldinho is easily one of the biggest brands in the footballing world today. He graced the covers of EA Sports' FIFA 2007. Some have even gone on to call him the best player in history, but the man himself shrugs off such comparisons. Modesty is a virtue rarely seen in a man of such ability, and Ronaldinho possesses tons of that quality. He sometimes gives the impression of being in another world altogether with the football - on another plane if I should say, but is still very down to earth. One thing is pretty sure - he will be a legend when he leaves the game.
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