Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The rise and fall of Ronaldinho

It was April 1999 when I watched my first football match live. Brazil vs Uruguay at the Lagos National stadium was the match during the World Youth Cup hosted in Nigeria. I remember the excitement of the entire competition. The whole country was buzzing as it was the first time a “major” international tournament was being hosted there. People were meeting some of these young stars and taking pictures with these so-called heroes of the future.

During that game, I remember before kick-off everyone was talking about a young player called Ronaldo that would be playing for Brazil and how he was being dubbed as the next Pele (aren’t they all). When the line-ups were announced, we realized that the number 10 people were talking about was actually called Ronaldinho. During that game, which Brazil lost 2-1 to a Uruguay side inspired by a young golden haired boy called Diego Forlan, Ronaldinho left the whole stadium in awe with his silky skills and audacious tricks. His talent was unquestionable and he was just a class above the rest. We could have guessed that we were witnessing one of the future greats.

A couple of years later, this footballing genius moved to French club Paris St Germain, where he made a name for himself and began leaving his mark on world football. People started sitting up and taking notice. This buck-toothed Brazilian was ripping defenses apart in France (along with a hero of mine, Jay-Jay Okocha). Ronaldinho's mesmerizing skills inspired Brazil to a World Cup victory in 2002 and helped him eventually move to Barcelona in 2003 where he took over the famous number 10 jersey that has been worn by many Catalan legends.

During his time in Cataluna, his smile and skills became revered all around the world. He became Nike’s new main man and everybody tried to emulate his skills and loved his “joie de vivre”. By the time the 2006 World Cup had arrived, Ronaldinho was the two-time winner of the Fifa World player of the year (2004, 2005), a La Liga champion twice in a row (2005, 2006), a Champions League winner (2006) and a Spanish Super Cup champion twice (2005, 2006). He was on top of the world. He was the heartbeat of Barcelona's team. He was the player everybody wanted in their team and everybody feared playing against. Nothing could stop him. He was the best player in the world.

A failed world cup campaign in 2006 with Brazil and some injuries later Ronaldinho’s downfall began. By the beginning of the 2007-2008 campaign, rumors of disputes with then manager Frank Riijkaard started to surface as well as his discontentment with life in Barcelona. Pictures of him becoming overweight and partying during his injury periods were greeted with disappointment by Barcelona’s fans and management. Ronaldinho was playing with fire and his future. He was turning into one of those players that was throwing it all away.  Time waits for no one in Football and before he knew it, the Argentinian prodigy Lionel Messi was waiting to take his spot as Barca’s main man. Ronaldinho was now looking for a way out of Barca, the club that gave him everything. He put himself in that situation. He drifted into the wilderness and out of the public eye during the end of that 2007-2008 season. He became the forgotten man. In the space of less than 2 years he went from hero to zero.

The following season he moved to AC Milan, where he was playing alongside numerous other aging stars and was given a second chance to shine again in a slower-paced league. Everyone thought this could be the resurrection of the fallen hero. Despite some good performances, he was never able to live up to the standard he had set for himself at Barca. His performances were on and off in Milan. Ronaldinho was no longer the player he used to be. His lifestyle got the better of him. The final nail in his coffin came when he wasn’t selected for the Brazilian National team for the 2010 World Cup (mistake or not by Dunga, Ronaldinho wasn’t there). That was it for him. He was no longer regarded as the player he used to be.

It is such a shame for such a talented footballer because he’s still 31 years old. He still has a few good years left in him. He could have been regarded as the greatest ever if he kept his feet on the ground and listened to the right people. Instead, now he has returned to Brazil for the swansong of his career and is playing with Flamengo, a team that just finished the league in 14th position in Brazil’s Serie A. His time with the big boys has gone. The star that was once Ronaldinho has faded. He is now just another player who fell victim to his own success.


  1. Reminds me of Rivaldho's career. Whatever happened to that guy?

  2. Rivaldo is playing for a Kazakhstan side I think.

    Don't you guys notice a pattern with Brazilian football players?
    Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho? Aside from playing for AC Milan in their decline, they are all victims of the luxurious life of European countries.
    Most of them grew up as poor footballers playing in the streets of Brazil bare foot and once they are marketed as the next big thing , the hype and sponsorships starts pouring in, they are signed by a team then they make a jump to one of the biggest teams of Europe.
    Some footballers handle the new-found fame and money in a very careful and humble manner, where others like Ronaldinho indulge themselves to the pleasures of the rich lifestyles (Eating, smoking, drinking, cars, women, houses etc..)

    Ronaldinho is another case of abandoned professionalism, a shame if you ask me.
    The first time the world truly took notice of him was that brilliant goal against David Seaman in the WC 2002.

  3. Kaka will soon join that pattern :p

  4. No Kaka is more balanced humble and more of a professional!

  5. Problem with ronaldihno is that he lost motivation, he won everything possible in football. That's why he fell apart. There was nothing left for him, he won it all. His talent was exceptional, he is just not mentally tough.

    Rivaldo is a different story, can't be compared, he is the kind of player that ages badly. As soon as he lost his speed his whole game went downhill.

  6. I believe Ronaldinho is a legend, the greatest. I also believe that he will make a comeback and show the world one last good show before he retires.

    And it's not that Ronaldinho got caught up in the riches, it was that he was lonely. His family was back in Brazil. People only cared that he was a star and nothing else. They didn't give him the love and comfort that he needed. But I still think he is the greatest footballer that ever played the beautiful game, and true football fans should also have the same idea, and im only a kid so XPoo.

  7. Ronaldinho still played good in Milan recently he transferred to atletico minero in Brazilian league won golden boot there and their brazil cup also sure he would return to wc 14 and again become the best

  8. Certain things in life simply have to be experienced -and never explained. Love is such a thing.