A YouTube History of Ronaldinho

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IFebruary 15, 2013

A YouTube History of Ronaldinho

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    Now 32 years old, Ronaldinho returned to the international fray last week in a disappointing 2-1 defeat to England at Wembley.

    His career, a rollercoaster of terrific highs interspersed with sporadic lows, has brought delight to millions worldwide and, for a period of two or three years last decade, his status as the world's best player was untouchable.

    Over the course of this slideshow, we will look at the fantastic career of the entertainer from his beginnings at Gremio, right through to his recent successes at Atlético Mineiro.

    Ronaldinho may have his faults and is certainly not everybody's favourite footballer. However, in terms of natural talent there are few who could ever get close to being comparable.

    Sit back and enjoy the ride through the career of a true great of modern football: Ronaldinho Gaúcho.

The Gremio Years

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    Ronaldinho began his career at the age of 18 with Gremio in Porto Alegre. A speedy forward, the youngster quickly rose to prominence to make the Brazil squad for the 1999 Confederations Cup and Copa America.

    Prodigiously talented, the fleet-footed playmaker scored 72 goals in his time at the Gaúcho club and quickly became a sensation in Brazil for his natural abilities and incredible confidence with the ball at his feet.

    He would be linked with sides across Europe right up to his eventual departure, with French side Paris Saint-Germain eventually parting with €5 million for his services in 2001.

A Parisien Fling

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    Between 2001-03, Ronaldinho was busy building a reputation in Europe as he took Ligue 1 by storm in two seasons at Paris St-Germain.

    In his time at the Parc des Princes, the Brazilian magician may not have won any silverware, but he certainly won the hearts and minds of the Parisien people. Beyond that, he drew the admiration of top clubs Europe-wide.

    The 2002 World Cup truly shot him to global prominence in his time in Paris, while his performance to defeat Bordeaux in the 2001-02 Coupe de la Ligue semi-final (video) is still one of the best individual games of his career.

    As would happen at every club since, Ronaldinho's spell at the club would be marred by accusations of unprofessionalism. On the pitch, though, there was little cause for concern.

The England Goal

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    The 2002 World Cup would be a defining moment in the career of Ronaldinho, as the world sat up to take notice of the impudent 22-year-old who was so at ease playing alongside the likes of Ronaldo and Rivaldo.

    For all his valuable contributions, although overshadowed by his two elders, it was in the game against England that Ronaldinho made his biggest impact.

    His assist for Rivaldo's opener and hassling of the English defence throughout may have long been forgotten, but his match-winning free-kick certainly lives long in the memory.

    Was it intentional or not? He insists it was and, ultimately, no one else can prove that he is lying. It was the turning point of a fiercely competitive encounter and a goal that played as big a role in Brazil's ultimate success as any.

    He would later miss the semi-final after picking up a late red card for a foul on full-back Danny Mills.

The Making of a Legend

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    The combination of football's newest global superstar, the Brazilian national team and, from 2003 onwards, FC Barcelona was an advertising dream.

    Luckily for sports equipment brand Nike, all three were all very much features of their stable, and Ronaldinho quickly became the crown jewel among their collection of highly impressive athletes.

    Brought to the club only after a failed attempt to sign Manchester United's David Beckham, Ronaldinho quickly made the Camp Nou his second home and was twice named World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005.

    For all his individual success, though, club honours would prove elusive until the end of the 2004-05 season when the Brazilian would claim the first of his two La Liga titles.

    n.b. The viral advertising campaign shown was produced in 2005.

The Taming of the Bernabeu

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    The rivalry between Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona needs little introduction. Indeed, El Clasico fixtures are always among the most watched football matches on the planet—despite their regularity.

    For a Barcelona player to win the admiration of Real Madrid's Bernabéu stadium and receive a standing ovation from the opposing fans requires something special.

    On Nov. 19, 2005, Ronaldinho did just that and, in the process, firmly emphasised his status as the best player in world football—just a month before his second FIFA award to that effect.

    A young Sergio Ramos bore the brunt of his magnificence on the night, but he was far from alone. The Brazilian was a one man wrecking machine. He left his opponents speechless and the fans full of grudging admiration. It was a masterclass.

    This Guardian article in the days following the match sums up brilliantly the impact of his display on both sides of the Clasico divide.

A Milanese Renaissance

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    Ronaldinho's time at Milan was not a universal success, but for the 2009-10 season at least there were signs of the player who had fallen from grace at Barcelona.

    After winning the Champions League for the first and only time in 2006, Ronaldinho's Barcelona career took a nose dive during an injury-hit 2007-08 season and, with the introduction of Pep Guardiola as the club's new manager, it was decided Ronaldinho should look for a new challenge.

    It was at the San Siro that he would arrive and, following a slow start in the city, would come to life in his second season.

    His performance against Manchester United in the first-leg of Milan's eventual Champions League defeat was a particularly memorable display, but ultimately the creative wizard would leave Milan in early 2011 without a title to his name.

    Two years of his stay may have been far from his best, but there was at least a six month spell for Milan fans to savour of their No. 80's talents.

A False Dawn at Flamengo

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    Ronaldinho's early return to Brazil at the age of 30 was supposed to be a glorious homecoming for one of the country's great footballing idols of recent years. Flamengo, as the best supported club in Brazil, also seemed the perfect fit for a man of his talents.

    Everything began swimmingly as the Rubro-Negro claimed the 2011 Rio de Janeiro state championship and began the league season in fine form, with Ronaldinho at the centre of everything positive in their temporary Engenhão home.

    Things came to a head in July 2011, when Ronaldinho's Flamengo took on recent winners of the Copa Libertadores, Santos. The match was billed as Ronaldinho vs Neymar and the duo did not disappoint, producing one of the finest 90 minutes of football anyone could wish to see.

    The former Barcelona star may have been outdone by his junior rival, but he was flying and a glorious return to the Brazil national team followed.

    Unfortunately, as Flamengo's off the pitch issues mounted their relationship with the star became tense and Ronaldinho's form suffered.

    Bypassed in an international fixture with Ghana, he was quickly discarded by Brazil and the situation between player and club quickly turned into a soap opera.

    Inevitably, on 31 May 2012, Ronaldinho walked out on the club claiming breach of contract after six months of poor performances and casual professional standards.

Momentum in Minas Gerais

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    Things may not have gone to plan after a bright start with Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro, but within a week Ronaldinho was en-route to Belo Horizonte and the welcome embrace of Atlético Mineiro.

    There, he was placed in an ambitious side who were looking to turn around a woeful 2011 season and challenge for titles. Ronaldinho was to be their centre-piece, with rising star Bernard his ever-willing assistant.

    Loved by his new fans and treated with respect by his employers, the much-derided Ronaldinho once more set about turning back the hands of time to lead his new side to an initially unexpected title challenge.

    In the end, Atlético simply couldn't match the firepower or organisation of an impressive Fluminense side, but there could be nothing but respect for their phenomenal twelve month turn around.

    Ronaldinho was central to the entire revival and, once more, earned himself a recall to the Brazil side with his impressive form.

    There have been many highlights of his time in Minas Gerais but perhaps the most memorable moment of his stay was an emotionally charged hat-trick against Figueirense in October 2012.

    The match came just a day after the death of his step-father in a year that his mother had battled illness and his brother been sentenced to prison. Life is not always as easy as it seems in the world of Ronaldinho.