When Ronaldinho celebrated his 42nd birthday on March 21, fans once again had the opportunity to mention him as the embodiment of the joy and happiness of world football.
Ronaldinho the unique artist on the pitch
He won the 2002 World Cup at the age of 22. Eleven years later, he helped Atletico Mineiro win the Copa Libertadores in front of 56,557 fans in his native Brazil. He only had about six peak years in Europe, among which, was most memorable when playing for Barca.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo later redefine the shining time of a professional player. But as Sky Sports comments, none of them replicate the inspiration Ronaldinho once had. That thing cannot be measured by the number of years played, the number of goals, the number of assists, the number of Cups, the number of Ballon d’Or. It is only available to the pitchers, seemingly unique to Ronaldinho.
Even winning the 2006 Champions League did not define him. It doesn’t tell the mix of amusement and admiration watching Ronaldinho play with the ball on the pinnacle stage. The way he defeats football monuments with a wide smile that reaches to his ears, his characteristic bared teeth, is the way a passionate dancer performs on stage.
Surely, those who have lived in the Ronaldinho era will hardly forget what he brought. The period of Ronaldo and Messi was long, and the period of Ronaldinho was memorable. Bojan Krkic played alongside Messi more than 100 games at Barca but did not hesitate to answer the question of who is the greatest player he has ever played with.
“For me, Ronaldinho is the best,” Krkic told Sky Sports . “The way he plays football is unique. Watching Ronaldinho play, you have the feeling that everything is easy. That’s because he does everything in the most difficult way. Only he can do it.”
Ronaldinho is different. He is famous for passing the ball without looking. He handles the ball with unique solutions with a very flexible hip, constantly changing direction and ready to throw the ball over the opponent’s head many times as if to tease. When he stroked the ball with his foot, Ronaldinho was as if stroking and petting it. Former team-mate at Barca, Eidur Gudjohnsen, once said that one day Ronaldinho would be able to talk to the ball.
But he is also ready to come up with unexpected solutions, stunning the whole stadium. The goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was a shot while standing still. It was a moment very few people had ever witnessed in their lifetime, and after witnessing it, they were never seen again. That mischievous situation resulted in a goal, and an important one.
Other magical touches led to famous assists. You will remember the skillful pass that helped Messi score his first Barca goal against Albacete; or glide and shoot to score Deportivo. Or it’s hundreds of passes and needlework, which no one can remember enough. It can also be a low pass, the ball is grass, but it is still enough to cut across the field and eliminate no less than nine opponents in a match against Bilbao.
Messi and Ronaldo reset the standards of top football. Even Ronaldinho’s best scoring season in Europe can’t match any of the goals the duo have created in 13 seasons. But the land that Messi inherited was renovated by Ronaldinho. It was he who changed Barca.
“Ronaldinho came at a very difficult time for the club,” said Krkic. “Barca was not strong at that time. The audience only filled half of the Camp Nou. Ronaldinho came to the team with a smile on his debut. That alone was enough to see that he was something different.”
Messi once said that Ronaldinho’s fire lights up everything. At that time, Real Madrid ‘s Galacticos were dead. The 2006 Champions League trophy was the beginning of a great period in Barca’s history. “With Ronaldinho, the winning machine kicks in,” Krkic asserts.
“He brought the winning spirit to the club. He was an all-round player. Ronaldinho could do everything a football player has to do. I think at the time, the audience went to the Camp Nou because they wanted to see Ronaldinho. What he did at Barca for about two or three seasons was magic. It was unique.”
Winning 2006 was the turning point. A Europe trampled by pragmatic football liberated by glamorous football. The fortresses of Rafa Benitez in Valencia and Liverpool, Jose Mourinho in Porto and Chelsea were destroyed. It was Ronaldinho who did it.
It was also a period when football was very different from this high pressing era. Football, of course, has evolved in a more scientific direction, acting as a machine that cancels out any space for the inspiration Ronaldinho once brought. During his late European stints with Milan, Ronaldinho was seen as an old-fashioned inspiration – a luxury and out of touch with the flow of the game. No one can make it as fun as the days when Ronaldinho was there.
“Football has changed a lot, so have the world and us as humans,” Krkic mused. “It’s not what it used to be. People don’t see it as a game anymore. There’s a lot of football involved. But in the end, we players still live and run after the ball like what we are. started at the age of four, with the same passion. His body expression, face, smile Ronaldinho always reflected the happiness of playing football. He was the embodiment of happiness.”
“For me, Ronaldinho is the best player in the world.”
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