Ronaldinho was a superstar Brazilian playmaker who was a key part of his country’s World Cup success in 2002.
He played with a smile on his face and won the biggest prizes in the game for club and country, including the World Cup, European Champions League and the Spanish and Italian domestic titles.
He was also named World Player of the Year twice and European Footballer of the Year once.
Early days at Grêmio
His career started in 1998 with Brazilian side, Grêmio.
He spent three years there and started to attract attention from big European clubs.
Arsenal were interested in signing him but he couldn’t obtain a work permit as he had not played enough games for his national team at the time.
The young Ronaldinho scored 21 goals in 52 games for Grêmio before he finally got his move to Europe in 2001.
Moving to Europe
Paris Saint-Germain spent €5million to acquire his services and he spent two seasons there. At the start of his PSG career he found himself warming the bench fairly regularly but in the second half of his first season he really hit form.
PSG didn’t have a great season the following year, managing only an 11th place finish in the league. It was Ronaldinho who provided his team’s highlights of the season with three goals in two games against Olympique de Marseille, to help PSG achieve a league double over their fierce rivals.
A global superstar at the 2002 World Cup
In 2002, Ronaldinho won the biggest tournament of his career. Brazil went to the World Cup tournament as favourites. The heaviest burdens fell upon the trio of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo to produce the magic.
It would have been easy to buckle under that sort of pressure, but the three players, as well as the rest of the team were fantastic throughout. The ruthlessness of Ronaldo, the vision of Rivaldo and the flair of Ronaldinho lit up the tournament and ensured that the Brazil side of 2002 was one of the most memorable of all time.
Ronaldinho scored two goals in the tournament. The first was against China in a 4-0 formality. The second was in the quarter final against England. This was a much tougher game for Brazil, in fact they had gone 1-0 behind before Rivaldo equalised.
Spectacular goal or fluke?
It was a tight second half and was going to need something special to break the deadlock. That something special was to come from Ronaldinho. Brazil were awarded a free kick 35 yards from goal and Ronaldinho stepped up. It wasn’t a natural shooting angle and everybody in the stadium and watching on TV was expecting a pin point cross.
Instead he hit a high ball that bamboozled David Seaman and dipped with pace into the top corner of the net. It turned out to be the winning goal but it wasn’t a happy ending as he was sent off and missed the semi final.
To this day many English football fans don’t believe he meant it, others say it just flew so perfectly into the top corner you have to give it to him.
His teammates beat Turkey 1-0 in the semi final with a goal from Ronaldo. Ronaldinho was brought back into the team for the final which Brazil won 2-0 against Germany.