Ronaldinho's 40th birthday: 40 reasons why I love the former Barca and Brazil superstar

By Sports Desk March 21, 2020

Has there ever been a football player you've loved watching so much that you could be confident of writing down a long list of reasons for your adoration?

For me, that player is Ronaldinho, and seeing as the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year and 2005 Ballon d'Or recipient turns 40 on Saturday, I wanted to pay tribute.

The former World Cup winner will celebrate his birthday in a maximum-security Paraguayan prison after being accused of entering the country on a fake passport – and he apparently continues to rack up goals and assists in kickabouts behind bars. Only Ronaldinho.

In honour of the legendary Brazilian on this landmark day, here are the 40 reasons why I love him.

 

1. Within three minutes of kick-off in a Paris Saint-Germain versus Marseille game I recorded on VHS in March 2003, he flicked the ball over the heads of two players and won a free-kick when dribbling away. When he scored with a dink over the keeper later in that game, a love affair was born.

2. He was the master of the no-look pass. And it didn't even need to be necessary.

3. Whether you call it an elastico or a flip-flap, Ronaldinho loved them. It was the trick I was most beguiled by as a teenager and, to my endless frustration, could never get right myself.

4. He marked his debut for Barcelona with a stunning 30-yard drive that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar. It was gone 01:00 local time!

5. Ronaldinho had arrived in Catalonia with the reputation of a party lover firmly established. Who can blame him – if you were that good, wouldn't you just want to constantly celebrate?

6. That goal against Chelsea.

7. He assisted Ludovic Giuly in a 3-0 win over Osasuna in October 2005 using his back. I mean, who does that?!

8. He picked Barcelona over Manchester United. Nothing against the Red Devils, but it would have been tough to watch him play for a Premier League team that wasn't mine.

9. That samba shuffle celebration and the thumb-and-little-finger hand gesture.

10. He got a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu – as a Barcelona player.

11. Those cascading locks and gummy smile.

12. He scored directly from a corner for Flamengo during a 3-2 defeat to Avai in 2011. Anyone with a 'gol olimpico' on their resume gets the utmost kudos.

13. As a keen follower of Brazilian football, I was delighted when Ronaldinho signed for Fluminense – the team I'd chosen to support during a three-month stay in Rio de Janeiro. It was somehow even better when he terminated his 18-month contract after just nine appearances.

14. Alongside former Everton striker Jo and current Everton winger Bernard, he helped Atletico Mineiro win their first Copa Libertadores title in 2013.

15. He always seemed to be playing with a smile on his face, or at least not far away from it.

16. Ronaldinho may have been in decline and far from his twinkling best when he rocked up at Liga MX side Queretaro, but a double against Club America earned him a standing ovation at the iconic Estadio Azteca.

17. He posed for a photo with me in Barcelona. OK, it was via a green screen, all right?!

18. That was during an October 2003 visit to the city that included going to watch Barca take on Real Murcia. Ronaldinho made sure to treat me to a goal in a 3-0 win.

19. He made England's elimination from the 2002 World Cup a little less painful with the most outrageous of goals. (I reckon he meant it, too.)

20. For starring in Nike's iconic 'The Cage' and 'Ole' adverts.

21. Somehow, he scored from behind the goal during a training session with Flamengo. It was the kind of sorcery most can only dream of.

22. Before going viral was a thing, Ronaldinho went viral. Footage of him juggling the ball and volleying it against the crossbar FOUR times in succession without it hitting the ground wrote him into folklore. I still don't know whether it was real or not…

23. When Ronaldinho dribbled, he did it at electric pace and with startling agility, and although he often took several knocks he did his utmost to stay on his feet.

24. It was a Champions League semi-final against Milan: chest control, the ball lifted over Gennaro Gattuso's head, flicked past Andrea Pirlo with two more touches, and when Alessandro Nesta deigned to get in his way, Ronaldinho stretched a leg out behind him and used his heel to square to Samuel Eto'o.

25. In the days before Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite struggled with freestyle tricks at Barcelona presentations, Ronaldinho was balancing the ball on his head, rolling it forward to give it a little kiss, then sending it back to rest on his forehead. That's how you do it.

26. He made great use of his shoulder; either to deftly bring the ball down or flick it on to a team-mate.

27. His 360-degree spin to get between two Werder Bremen players. It doesn't even matter that he was tackled by the next defender.

28. He did not join Manchester City after leaving Barcelona. (See point eight.)

29. For filling countless hours of my time at university with his YouTube highlights.

30. Ronaldinho was able to baffle defenders without even touching the ball.

31. Because he scored one of the most jarring chips during his time at Atletico. From 16 yards out on the left side of the box, with the Arsenal de Sarandi goalkeeper seemingly in a good position, Ronaldinho clipped a beautiful effort into the top-left corner.

32. Most of the greats excel from free-kicks. The sight of Ronaldinho stepping up to one in a central area from a 90-degree angle to the goal was a thing of beauty.

33. Because he did not retire straight away after leaving Fluminense. He said he wanted to continue playing (but only after Rio's famous carnival, of course) and ended up going on tour, playing in exhibition games for whoever would pay him.

34. For teeing up Lionel Messi's first senior goal for Barcelona, and doing it with a scoop pass.

35. Against Villarreal at Camp Nou in the 2006-07 season came one of his most memorable strikes. After controlling Xavi's cross with his chest, he span 180 degrees and sent a bicycle kick back across goal. *chef's kiss*

36. For scoring under-the-wall free-kicks at Barcelona, Flamengo and Atletico.

37. His 'water bottle trick' when Atletico took on Sao Paulo. Go and look it up. He showed zero shame in punishing Rogerio Ceni's goodwill.

38. Throughout his career Ronaldinho kept trying to score by stealing the ball away from goalkeepers as they took a drop kick.

39. Another El Clasico moment from April 2004. This time it was an outrageous scoop in behind for Xavi to lift beyond Iker Casillas in the 86th minute and secure a 2-1 win.

40. Because in my lifetime, no other player has made watching football as enjoyable as he did.

Related items

  • Solskjaer proud as Haaland closes in on his Champions League record Solskjaer proud as Haaland closes in on his Champions League record

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows Erling Haaland's rapid rise means his days as the top-scoring Norwegian in Champions League history are numbered. 

    Manchester United boss Solskjaer coached Haaland when he was a teenager at Molde in their homeland. 

    Since moving first to Salzburg and then Borussia Dortmund, Haaland has exploded onto European football's biggest stage. 

    Dortmund entertain Lazio on Wednesday, with Haaland already on 16 Champions League goals. 

    Solskjaer, who famously netted a stoppage-time winner for United in the 1999 final against Bayern Munich, will take charge of the Red Devils against Paris Saint-Germain this week and remains full of admiration for his young compatriot. 

    "He'll beat it and very quickly that’s for sure," he told reporters, referring to his own tally of 19 goals in the competition. 

    "The boy has had a great start to his career. It was really good to work with him and to see the potential in him and some parts of me feel proud to have a little bit of an input in such a rise. 

    "I'm sure Erling will score loads of goals in the Champions League."

    Haaland is the third-highest scoring player from Norway in the Champions League, with ex-Valencia and Lyon striker John Carew next in his sights on 18. 

    However, the time in which the 20-year-old has amassed his tally is remarkable, as he dwarfs his countrymen when it comes to goals per minute. 

    Solskjaer, who famously made a habit out of goalscoring cameos from the bench, got his 19 Champions League goal at a rate of one every 189 minutes, while Carew's ratio was one per 218 minutes. 

    Haaland launched his Champions League career with a hat-trick when Salzburg thrashed Genk 6-2 last September. His scoring frequency has barely let up since, with his 16 tallying at one every 56 minutes. 

    Since that incredible maiden outing, only Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski has scored more in the competition - a haul of 18 during that period playing a big part in the Bundesliga giants' march to glory last season. 

    Lewandowski and Haaland are very much out on their own, with the former's Bayern colleague Serge Gnabry next on nine goals - four of which arrived during a 7-2 thumping of Tottenham. 

    First with Atletico Madrid and now with Juventus, Alvaro Morata has managed eight Champions League goals since Haaland's debut, while Timo Werner and Karim Benzema join Manchester City duo Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling on seven. 

    Lionel Messi is one of seven players on six goals during the period in question, while Cristiano Ronaldo has five. 

    In terms of minutes-per-goal, Haaland is only bettered by Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, with the England international's total of five arriving at a rate of one every 50.4 minutes - a return bolstered by his hat-trick against RB Leipzig last month. 

    The Dortmund youngster's reputation as a dead-eyed finisher is certainly well-earned, too. 

    Morata (47 per cent) is the only player with six or more goals to boast a better shot conversion rate than Haaland's 44.4 - outstripping Lewandowski's 32.7 per cent. 

    If he does beat Solskjaer's mark "very quickly" it will be entirely consistent with Haaland's career to date, which is in a gloriously prolific hurry.

  • Benzema back as Real Madrid eye Shakhtar revenge Benzema back as Real Madrid eye Shakhtar revenge

    Karim Benzema is back in the Real Madrid starting XI to face Shakhtar Donetsk as one of four changes made by Zinedine Zidane.

    The influential French centre-forward has six goals in 11 appearances across all competitions this season, but he has not featured since netting in a 4-1 LaLiga defeat to Valencia on November 8.

    In his absence due to a muscular issue, Benzema's team-mates have fared little better, following a 1-1 draw at Villarreal with a 2-1 defeat at home to Deportivo Alaves.

    They did at least manage a 2-0 win against Inter in between those domestic disappointments, leaving them second in Champions League Group B.

    Madrid are on seven points, one shy of Borussia Monchengladbach and three ahead of a Shakhtar side who claimed a shock 3-2 win in the Spanish capital to launch their campaign.

    Zidane has also recalled Ferland Mendy, Martin Odegaard and Rodrygo to face the Ukrainian champions.

  • Aston Villa v Newcastle United postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak within Magpies squad Aston Villa v Newcastle United postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak within Magpies squad

    Aston Villa's clash with Newcastle United has become the first Premier League match this season to be postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak within one of the teams.

    Newcastle say there are "several" players and staff members self-isolating after returning positive tests in recent days.

    The club's training ground has been closed in an effort to contain the outbreak, which has hampered the squad's ability to train and prepare for Friday's game at Villa Park.

    Newcastle lodged a request with the Premier League to have the game moved, which was accepted on Tuesday.

    In a statement, the Premier League Board said it agreed that Newcastle were "unable to train and adequately and safely prepare for their match on Friday".

    The statement added: "The decision has been taken in consultation with Newcastle United and Aston Villa, and following extensive consultation with PHE [Public Health England] and Premier League medical advisors, with the health of players and staff the priority.

    "All players and training ground staff will be re-tested this week and another meeting between the club, PHE and the Premier League will take place to assess the test results.

    "The Premier League wishes those with COVID-19 a safe and speedy recovery and will rearrange the postponed fixture against Aston Villa in due course."

    Newcastle said: "The match, which was set to kick off at 8pm (GMT) on Friday evening, will now be rescheduled and a new date and time will be confirmed in due course. Newcastle United would like to thank Aston Villa Football Club for its understanding.

    "Newcastle United was one of the first clubs in the country to close its training ground prior to the first national lockdown in March and the club introduced comprehensive COVID-19 protocols in line with Premier League and government guidance to protect its players and staff ahead of Project Restart.

    "While the club has continued to ensure strict adherence to these protocols, and despite previously experiencing only a very small number of isolated COVID-19 cases, positive test results have risen sharply in recent days."

    Newcastle are 13th in the table, a point behind Aston Villa, who have played a game less.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.