Brazilian World Cup winner Ronaldinho has brought the curtain down on a glittering career some three years after he last played a competitive match according to a statement from his brother and agent.
The 37-year-old was part of the victorious Brazil World Cup squad which lifted the trophy in 2002 and also won the Champions League in 2006 with Barcelona as well as being awarded the Balon d’Or in 2005.
Beginning his career with Brazilian side Gremio at the age of 18 he then moved to Paris St-Germain in 2001 but his blistering performances alongside the likes of Ronaldo and Rivaldo in Japan and South Korea meant it wasn’t long before he was attracting the interest of Europe’s elite clubs, and after a battle with Manchester United to acquire his signature he eventually joined Barcelona in 2003 for £21 million.
He enjoyed five glorious years at Camp Nou which were generally regarded as the best of his playing career, winning two league titles, the 2005 Ballon d’Or and the 2006 Champions League as part of one of the most exciting sides in Europe at the time, under the guidance of Frank Rijkaard.
But the arrival of Pep Guardiola signalled the end for Ronaldinho in Spain as he struggled to adapt to a change in playing style adopted by the new coach and was accused of a lack of focus and something of a questionable work ethic.
“Ronaldinho didn’t train any day of the week and would just turn up on a Friday for the game on Saturday,” said Jerome Leroy of his former PSG team-mate. “I think he was trying to follow in the steps of Romario, who would also go out every night, but he didn’t have the same success.”
A disappointing showing at the 2006 World Cup in Germany didn’t help his cause as Brazil were unceremoniously dumped out of the tournament by France at the quarter-final stage with Ronaldinho, of whom much was expected, playing alongside Adriano, Ronaldo and Kaká failing to find the net and credited with just one assist in the entire tournament.But the tricky winger still felt he had plenty to offer and was given the perfect opportunity to prove his doubters wrong following another huge transfer just two years later. In 2008 he rejected the advances of Manchester once again, this time an audacious £25.5 million bid from City, to join AC Milan in what would be the last big transfer of his career
As part of an illustrious team that included David Beckham, Andrea Pirlo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic he helped them to the Serie A title in 2011 which more than made up for his absence at the World Cup in South Africa a year earlier.
Following his successes in Europe Ronaldinho returned to his native Brazil to join Flamengo before seeing out what left of a glorious career at Querétaro of Mexico and finally Fluminense, earning the last of his 98 Brazil caps against Chile in April 2013, though it was his exploits with Barcelona and Milan for which he will probably be best remembered.
Though fear not, we might not have seen the last of one of most naturally gifted and skilful ball players the game has ever seen as in his statement brother and agent Roberto Assis announced what he hoped would be a series of events to celebrate the career and achievements of his sibling.
“Let’s do something pretty big and nice after the Russia World Cup, probably in August,” he said. “We will do various events in Brazil, Europe and Asia and, of course, we are arranging something with the Brazilian team as well.” Paving the way, possibly, for the ultimate “Ron Song” when it comes to the most exciting and talented footballers of his generation.
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