Ronaldinho Gaucho's 2013: A Year to Remember for the Brazilian Playmaker

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportDecember 24, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 05:  Ronaldinho of Brazil looks on during the International friendly match between Brazil and Ghana at Craven Cottage on September 5, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Ronaldinho Gaucho. The former world great may no longer be King of the Hill, but after a sobering spell at Rio Club Flamengo, he is steadfastly refusing to slip down the slope into proverbial anonymity either after an eventful 12 months in Brazilian football. The player who lit up Gremio as a teenager first began to make his name a household one in France with Paris Saint-Germain.

He then confirmed his inexplicably outrageous attributes to the world at Barcelona and has continued to break new ground, particularly on a personal level, with Belo Horizonte club Atletico Mineiro.

At 33 years of age and with a career that is inevitably approaching the curtain call, there were still some incredible highlights for Ronaldinho in 2013.

Best Moments of 2013

Winning the Copa Libertadores. The 33-year-old picked up his first-ever Copa Libertadores crown, the South American equivalent of the UEFA Champions League, in July when Atletico Mineiro defeated Paraguayan outfit Olimpia on penalties.

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Atletico stormed the group stages, topping their group after winning their opening five games and finding the back of the net on 16 occasions.

Their exceptional start to the continental tournament included a 5-2 demolition of Argentine club Arsenal de Sarandi, with the former Barcelona attacker picking up a brace.

He scored one from the penalty spot before a delightful effort was cheekily clipped inside the near post.

After breezing past Sao Paulo in the last 16, Atletico made it through the subsequent three rounds by the skin of their teeth. They beat Tijuana on the away goals rule before defeating Newell's Old Boys and Olimpia on spot-kicks.

After picking up a 2006 Champions League medal with Barcelona, Ronaldinho finally got his hands on the South American equivalent.

The end of the tournament also curtailed his union with Atletico talent Bernard, who moved to Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk shortly afterward. Together they had formed one of the most dynamic and creative forces in Brazil.

Best Goals of 2013

In a Campeonato Brasileiro match for Atletico Mineiro against defending champions Fluminense, Ronaldinho scored two perfectly executed free-kicks to give his side a share of the points in a 2-2 draw.

It is worth noting the stance of Flu stopper Diego Cavalieri. On both occasions, he is left motionless by the trajectory of the ball, the precision, whip and swerve that is reminiscent of the No. 10 in his pomp.

While the forward has undoubtedly lost his pace over the years, as a dead-ball specialist he remains one of the most accurate and dangerous around. His equaliser against Raja Casablanca in the Club World Cup was testament to that.

It was the fourth time he has managed such a feat in his illustrious career. His previous victims were Cruzeiro in 1999, Cadiz in 2005 and Real Betis in 2007.

Best Quotes of 2013 

In October, Ronaldinho told French broadcaster Canal Plus it would be an honour to end his career at former club Paris Saint-Germain:

"It [PSG] is a very strong team now. Currently I'm not thinking about my future, but any player would be honoured to finish his career with a big club like PSG."

He also spoke to the Brazilian press earlier this month about the possibility of playing at the 2014 World Cup. Brazil have one more friendly, against South Africa in March, before coach Luiz Felipe Scolari must name his squad. Ronaldinho said:

Felipao [Scolari] and I have won many things together. He has always spoken openly with me, always been a direct guy. All players in good form have a chance. Today he more or less has his base, but whoever is in good form will also go.

Ronaldinho spoke of his desire to play for Brazil at the 2014 World Cup
Ronaldinho spoke of his desire to play for Brazil at the 2014 World CupClive Brunskill/Getty Images

And the happiness that seemingly only Ronaldinho can bring...

In July the world's best-known buck-toothed grin vanished forever. Ronaldinho famously had his front teeth shortened as the world welcomed a new smile.

Despite an anonymous display in the World Club Cup semi-final, when Atletico succumbed 3-1 to their Moroccan opponents, the former two-time World Player of the Year still managed to steal the show.

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO - DECEMBER 21:  Ronaldinho (L) of Atletico Mineiro celebrates with Josue after scoring a goal from a free kick during the FIFA Club World Cup 3rd Place Match between Guangzhou Evergrande FC and Atletico Mineiro at the Marrakech Stadium
Steve Bardens/Getty Images

After the final whistle, Casablanca players mobbed the idol, shaking his hand and hugging him while simultaneously stripping him of his kit.

Players made off with the shirt from his back and the boots he had used during the game. True to form, he took it all with a grin.

2013 may not have ended with a bang. Atletico's capitulation against Raja Casablanca meant Ronaldinho was denied a meeting with Pep Guardiola in the Club World Cup final.

But it still had its upsides for one of the most iconic No. 10s of the last decade. Scenes from last week's semi-final prove that, while he is no longer top of the pile, he is still top drawer.

A place in Luiz Felipe Scolari's 23-man World Cup squad now looks unlikely for the former Selecao regular. But after continuing to overcome fresh challenges even at this late stage in a career full of highs, it remains to be seen what 2014 can bring for one of football's most joyous acts.