“I run on the road long before I dance under the lights” – Muhammad Ali
Like boxing, football has also had its fair share of entertainers. Plenty of players have had the ability to get the crowd on their feet. Fewer manage to successfully earn the plaudits of those who they compete against. But only one player has come and gone, making no enemies in the process, and left the sport of football better…simply by playing the game. Ronaldinho was not only a world-class footballer, but he is a fantastic human being who left a mark on millions. The Brazilian changed the way we watch football, for he did not play to win…he played for fun.
Moving to Barcelona
Ronaldo de Assis Moreira (Ronaldinho) was raising eyebrows the moment he stepped onto a football field. The first five years of his illustrious career saw the brilliant technician make waves in Brazil and France. Short periods where he gained experience at Gremio and PSG were enough for the European elites to take notice. With tough competition from Manchester United and close rivals Real Madrid, it was Barcelona who managed to secure the signing of the superstar.
With all eyes on Ronaldinho upon the upcoming season, Barcelona fans were desperate for a player that could compete against Real’s galacticos. It was anticipated that R10 would certainly make somewhat of an impact in La Liga, but nobody could have expected the influence he would have on the entire sport. Within a few competitive games, everyone at Barca knew that they had signed the world’s greatest entertainer.
Skills and trickery have never been uncommon in football, especially for Brazilians, but this Brazilian took things to a whole new level. Forget stepovers, they weren’t any more impressive than a toe-poke when Ronaldinho had the ball. Seeming as if he was inventing a new skill move every match, he took the world by storm. His technical ability was second to none…but that’s not why people loved watching him play.
Along with his unbelievable talent was his energetic and joyful attitude. Arguing with a referee or an opponent was foreign to Ronaldinho. So instead he decided to stick to what he knew best…dance under the lights. The noise he would single-handedly create within the Camp Nou had the match feeling more like a music concert. His talent was enough to get the crowd on their feet, but whenever he scored, he always took his opportunity to join the fans. As well as his signature tricks and flicks, R10’s iconic samba dance celebrations will never be forgotten.
For Ronaldinho, every match was the same. Winning and losing did not matter, he was just happy to play football. His time at Barcelona changed the way many think about football. For the first time, viewers were not distracted because of obsessions about the victor and loser. Instead, everyone became engulfed in the gorgeous football on display. Every night was a party when R10 was on the pitch. No matter the score, all the Barca fans were celebrating how fortunate they were to watch one of the most special players in the world. He let them and everyone else know why football is the beautiful game.
The image of his face with that smile from ear-to-ear is not all he left the Spanish giants. He brought them joy and left them trophies. At a time when Real Madrid were ruling Europe, Ronaldinho came and turned it all around. By the end of his historic time in Spain, he had successfully helped Barcelona win two La Liga titles and the Champions League. Although maybe not enjoying the success of their bitter rivals, even Real Madrid fans appreciated the true brilliance that Ronaldinho brought. One of the many famous El Clasico nights in the Bernabeu will always be remembered for when the Real fans gave R10 a standing ovation after two solo goals.
His legacy at Barcelona did not end when he and the club parted ways. For his mentorship to many players coming from the Barcelona academy has helped push the club to another level. Most noticeably was his instant friendship with Lionel Messi. The Argentinian maestro has stated on multiple occasions that Ronaldinho was like a big brother to him. Giving him confidence and advice before games helped little Leo become accustomed to professional football. Because of their bond, it is likely that without Ronaldinho’s magic we may have never seen Messi’s.