Ronaldinho Gaúcho is one of the most iconic football players in the world, thanks to his magical skills with the ball and charismatic personality. Throughout his career, he played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, winning titles and individual awards. In this article, we will revisit Ronaldinho’s journey in chronological order, covering his clubs, personal life, retirement, imprisonment, and what he is currently doing.
Ronaldinho was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil on March 21, 1980. His father, João da Silva, was a former amateur football player, and his mother, Dona Miguelina, worked as a cleaner.
His older brother, Assis Moreira, or simply Assis, was also a professional football player. Born in 1971, Assis played for several clubs, starting his career at Grêmio, just like Ronaldinho.
He played for Vasco da Gama, Fluminense, and Corinthians. But not only that, Assis spent a good part of his career playing abroad, with remarkable stints at Sion, a Swiss club where he won the Swiss Championship twice and two Swiss Cups. He also played for Sporting and ended his career in 2002, at the age of 31, playing for Montpellier.
In many moments, including those that will be discussed here, Ronaldinho Gaúcho shows all his gratitude to his brother and the importance of Assis and his father in his approach to football.
In his childhood, Ronaldinho saw his father, João, a former amateur football player, step away from the football field to work as a security guard and provide for the family. Dona Miguelina was a cleaner who worked hard to take care of the children and the house.
Ronaldinho and his older brother, Assis, grew up in a simple house, without running water or a bathroom. They shared a bedroom with their parents and three younger sisters.
Despite the difficulties, Ronaldinho always had a great passion for football. From a young age, he played football in the streets of the neighborhood with his friends and dreamed of becoming a professional player. His talent for the sport was evident early on, and he soon caught the attention of neighbors and football coaches.
Thus, Ronaldinho started at the Grêmio futsal schools at the age of 7.
Already at this time, the promising player Assis was giving interviews saying that the family’s star player was Ronaldinho, then aged 8. It seems that Assis got the prophecy right.
Despite a childhood without many privileges, Ronaldinho was always a happy and outgoing kid. He was known for his wide smile and his friendliness with people. His simple and laid-back demeanor won him many fans throughout his career, both on and off the field.
Today, Ronaldinho is recognized as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. His story of overcoming adversity and achieving success is inspiring for many people, especially for those facing difficulties in their lives.
Grêmio: The Beginning of a Legend
He started playing football in a street court in Porto Alegre and quickly stood out for his ball skills. At the age of eight, he joined Grêmio’s youth team, one of Brazil’s top football clubs.
Ronaldinho played in Grêmio’s youth teams for a few years before being promoted to the senior team in 1998, at the age of 17.
However, the Grêmio fans already had high expectations for the boy, thanks to Ronaldinho himself. In 1997, at the Under-17 World Cup, Ronaldinho dazzled opponents and gave Brazil the title. Soon, rumors were circulating on the streets of Porto Alegre that the smiling boy would be the hope of a new Grêmio, which had lost its idols Jardel and Paulo Nunes.
Thus, on March 4, 1998, Grêmio faced Vasco da Gama in the group stage of the Copa Libertadores. Vasco was filled with stars such as Juninho Pernambucano, Ramon, Felipe, Mauro Galvão and Luizão. The “Gigante da Colina”, in fact, won that edition of the Libertadores. However, in that game, they were defeated at Olímpico with a header goal by Guilherme, from a corner kick taken by who? Ronaldinho Gaúcho.
Ronaldinho played for Grêmio until 2001, helping the club win the Campeonato Gaúcho and the extinct Copa Sul, both in 1999. He scored 68 goals in 139 official games for Grêmio, establishing himself as one of the most important players in the club’s history. This was more due to his playing style and importance to the history of football than to the titles won.
Paris Saint-Germain: The Shine in the City of Lights
In 2001, Ronaldinho left Grêmio to join Paris Saint-Germain. But the transfer was loaded with controversy and bitterness.
Speculation among Grêmio fans and the club’s then-president, José Alberto Ribeiro, was that Ronaldinho had forced his way out of Grêmio, as follows.
According to Grêmio’s impressions, Ronaldinho postponed his contract renewal, leaving the club in a delicate situation. Even so, Tricolor spared no effort and made an absolutely surreal proposal to have Ronaldinho for two more seasons.
The opulent Grêmio proposal included monthly payments of R$ 300,000.00 for one year and R$ 400,000.00 for the following year, not to mention a signing bonus of nearly R$ 20 million to Ronaldinho. It is worth noting that this was in 2001 and in Brazil, at that time, there was no news of contracts with such large amounts. Even to this day, the values are incredible. In a simulation conducted, only with monetary update, Grêmio offered Ronaldinho the equivalent of approximately R$ 81.2 million.
Despite the efforts, Ronaldinho was determined to fly to the Old Continent. He landed in Paris to defend the colors of Paris Saint-Germain. Grêmio, in turn, received only 5 million dollars for one of the greatest players of all time. Therefore, Grêmio fans do not have the best memories of the young Ronaldinho.
With PSG, Ronaldo played for two seasons, from 2001 to 2003, scoring 25 goals in 77 games.
Indeed, Ronaldinho’s time at PSG wasn’t marked by an impressive number of titles, but it did serve as a great opportunity for him to show the world what he was capable of, especially with his performance in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, in which Brazil became the five-time world champions.
The 2002 World Cup
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari isn’t one of the greatest coaches in history by chance. Even with so many options in midfield, he knew that Ronaldinho Gaúcho would be fundamental to give his team speed in transition and the ability to break lines with his bewildering dribbles.
His most outstanding performance, undoubtedly, was against England. In one of the toughest games for the Brazilians, the English opened the scoring with Michael Owen. However, the Wizard was on the field. He rushes through the middle and with a magical body feint leaves Ashley Cole completely disoriented, making it simple to leave Rivaldo in a position to tie the game before the end of the first half.
In the second half, one of the most memorable goals in World Cup history. A free kick for Brazil, near the right sideline. The only valid option for any player, especially right-footed, is to try the cross. But Ronaldinho Gaúcho is not just any player.
Goalkeeper Seaman also expected Ronaldinho to cross, so he positioned himself a little ahead of usual. The result? The irreverent buck-toothed player shoots a curving ball that drops quickly, surpasses Seaman, and kisses the cheek of the net, to make it Brazil 2×1 and take the Seleção Canarinho to the semifinals of the competition.
The World Cup, obviously, changes the career trajectory of those who win it. With Ronaldinho it was no different. The victory and participation as a starter qualified him for a new level in international football. The biggest clubs in the world not only began to observe, but also to desire the Brazilian gem.
Barcelona: The Peak of Ronaldinho’s Career
In 2003, Manchester United, the legendary team led by the mystical Sir Alex Ferguson, had lost their idol David Beckham, who was sold to Real Madrid. As a result, the Red Devils searched for alternatives and their main target was Ronaldinho Gaúcho.
Despite the English club’s desire, everyone knows the outcome of this operation. Ronaldinho left PSG to join Barcelona. The transfer cost Barcelona around €32.5 million, a record amount at the time.
This was Barcelona’s final move through their president Joan Laporta. The Catalan club, which had already experienced its glory days, counting on some of the greatest players in the history of world football, such as Maradona, Ronaldo, and Romário, was going through a trophy drought.
La Liga was dominated by the galactic Real Madrid, who had won the Champions League a few seasons ago and already had Ronaldo Fenômeno.
In addition, less traditional clubs like Valencia and Deportivo La Coruña, with Djalminha and company, were beginning to take an unexpected prominence. La Coruña, for example, from 1995 to 2004, won 1 La Liga, 2 Copa del Rey, 3 Supercopa de España, and even reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Valencia, during the same period, won La Liga twice, the Copa del Rey once, and the UEFA Cup.
Therefore, Barcelona’s need for reinvention was evident. Joan made the bet on Ronaldinho to reach this other level. Apparently, it worked.
His debut was against Sevilla, in La Liga, in September 2003. It couldn’t have happened more magically. Ronaldinho received a long pass from the goalkeeper on a counter-attack with the team’s midfield exposed. He cut two players with his typical body feint and from far away, hit a powerful right-footed shot. The ball hit the post, the ground, and the top of the net, such was the power of the Wizard’s shot.
From then on, Ronaldinho’s stories as a Barça star piled up. Ronaldinho gave much more than expected and in the five seasons he was there, from 2003 to 2008, he helped Barcelona win two Spanish League titles, a UEFA Champions League, and two Spanish Super Cups, as well as several other trophies.
This is not all. Ronaldinho Gaúcho, especially during his time at Barcelona, offered game after game of true spectacles. Who doesn’t remember his magical performance against Real Madrid when he scored two goals and was applauded by the opposing fans? Or the entire trajectory of the 2005/2006 Champions League? The “samba” in front of Chelsea’s defense to score that legendary goal?
This was a very special period. Not only for Ronaldinho’s career, but for all football. The Wizard showed the world how to do magic with his feet. How to make your opponents respect and admire you for who you are.
He is and always will be an irreverent boy, capable of dominating any stadium with dribbles, goals, an open smile, and a “hang loose” for the football Gods. This is the image that remains.
In regards to the numbers, which are incapable of expressing what this passage through Barça represented, there is no other word but amazement. Ronaldinho scored a total of 94 goals in 207 matches for Barcelona, a very high number for a midfielder.
During this period, Ronaldinho won two well-deserved Ballon d’Or awards.
However, Ronaldinho’s love overflowed onto his personal life beyond the four lines of the pitch. The star enjoyed frequenting Barcelona’s nightlife, which ended up affecting his performance on the field.
Beyond his victories on the pitch, Ronaldinho mentored, guided, and helped young Lionel Messi become the player he is today, but that is a topic for another text.
Ronaldinho’s last two seasons at Barcelona did not bring any titles to the club, and his performances were no longer as impactful as before. After finishing the 2007/08 season in third place in La Liga, then-president Joan Laporta publicly asked Ronaldinho to seek a change of scenery, as his cycle at Barça had come to an end.
And so he did. The Wizard landed in Milan to join Kaká, Alexandre Pato, Dida, Thiago Silva, and other top players. Milan paid a whopping €24.15 million to acquire Dinho. Would he be able to play an important role and win titles?
Milan: Flashes of the Wizard.
In 2008, Ronaldinho left Barcelona to live in Northern Italy, in beautiful Milan.
The expectation was enormous. The Wizard had spoiled football lovers. The seasons of 2004 and 2005 had established him as one of the best players of all time. But now? Would he be able to replicate those feats?
The answer is simple and quick. No. Because the years he won the Ballon d’Or are unique. It would be unfair to all opponents if such genius were to be replicated equally through time. The maximum magic of football remained confined for only 2 seasons.
However, that does not mean that some of the flashes were not present. During his time at Milan from 2008 to 2011, we saw some beautiful performances from the Wizard. Dizzying dribbles and flashy plays, like the one where he passed the ball through the Chievo player’s legs with his heel.
As for the titles, they weren’t many. Ronaldinho was able to help win the Italian Championship in the 2010/11 season, despite being present only at the beginning of the season. This was an important title, as Milan had not won the Scudetto since 2003.
So, Ronaldinho’s relationship with the Milan fans became strained, as more than two seasons had passed and only flashes of the star were delivered. He scored only 26 goals in 95 games and left Italy to return home. Brazil.
Flamengo: The return to Brazil
In 2011, Ronaldinho left Milan to return to Brazil and join Flamengo, but it wasn’t a simple process.
Ever since he decided to leave Milan and return to Brazil, Brazilian newspapers’ headlines featured Ronaldinho’s face day after day, with speculations about where he would end up.
The soap opera dragged on for a long time. The Bruxo was approached by all the major clubs in the country, but the final battle was reduced to Flamengo, Palmeiras, and Grêmio.
Grêmio saw an opportunity for Ronaldinho to make amends with the Grêmio fans, as his departure was filled with controversies. However, the long-awaited repatriation of the best player in their history did not happen.
This time, Ronaldinho chose Flamengo. The team already had several stars in the squad, such as David, Thiago Neves, and Wagner Love. The Bruxo was warmly welcomed by 20,000 passionate Flamengo fans at Gávea. The party was on.
For Flamengo, Ronaldinho won the 2011 Carioca championship and scored 19 goals in 43 games during his time there.
Besides the championship, the most memorable moment for Ronaldinho was a specific game. This game, considered by many to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest game in the history of the Brazilian Championship.
The stage couldn’t be any better. Vila Belmiro, the home of King Pelé. Santos vs Flamengo. On one side, the Santos team, champions of the Libertadores that year, with Neymar, Ganso, Alex Sandro, Danilo and Elano. On the other side, the Flamengo team with Ronaldinho Gaúcho. Let’s go to the facts.
Santos, as expected, went on the attack and quickly opened a 3-0 lead in the first 30 minutes of the game. Neymar was simply unstoppable. In Santos’ second goal, he tries to chip the goalkeeper Bruno, who saves it. The ball bounces back to him inside the area, and he, sitting down, gives a kind of bicycle kick to assist Borges, who scores his second goal in the game.
But the third goal deserves a special chapter. Neymar receives the ball in the middle of the field, close to the sideline. Immediately, two markers come to take the ball from him, but the Santos boy gives a backheel, leaving the Flamengo defenders behind.
With the midfield open, he carries the ball at speed towards the area. He passes to Borges, who makes a wall and returns it to Neymar. The Boy from Vila applies a dribble on Ronaldo Angelim that simply cannot be put into words. Goalkeeper Bruno comes out of the goal trying to smother him, but he touches it with the outside of his foot, almost falling, and scores Santos’ third goal.
This goal earned Neymar the Puskas Prize that year, considered the most beautiful goal of the season.
But on the other side was the Wizard, who, even though not as consistent as in previous years, was still capable of producing flashes of one of the most magical players in history.
Ronaldinho Gaúcho takes advantage of the cross and just completes it to push the ball into the back of the net. 3-1.
Shortly thereafter, Léo Moura crosses and Thiago Neves heads it in. 3-2.
At this point, Neymar is fouled in the area. Elano takes a chip penalty, but doesn’t surprise goalkeeper Bruno, who saves it and does some juggling to mock the Santos star’s penalty. This fueled the Flamengo fans’ hopes even more.
Still in the first half, Ronaldinho takes a corner and David scores on the first post to tie the game. Flamengo tied a game that seemed lost.
The teams returned for the second half, and the momentum did not diminish. Neymar is launched to the right corner, beats Léo Moura in the race and applies a chip over Bruno. A great goal. Santos 4-3.
It was at this moment that the Wizard showed the reason for his nickname. He makes a masterful play, dribbles three Santos players, and is fouled at the entrance of the area. Free kick. He takes the kick, and suddenly the magic takes over. Ronaldinho takes the shot under the wall and leaves goalkeeper Rafael with no reaction. 4-4.
Finally, in the dying minutes, Ronaldinho receives the ball inside the Santos box and with a masterful touch, displaces the Santos goalkeeper to turn the game around and seal his hat-trick. Flamengo 5-4 Santos.
This game, more than the teams’ position in the championship, was marked by the showdown between the brilliance of Ronaldinho Gaúcho and Neymar. The “Boy from Vila”, at 19 years old, had won the Libertadores Cup a month before and shared the stage with his idol at the Temple of Football. And what a spectacle the two presented.
Indeed, this game also served to show that Ronaldinho, at 31 years old, still had much more to show to Brazil and the world. And so it happened.
Atlético Mineiro: O Galo was never the same
Until 2013, Atlético Mineiro had not won a Copa Libertadores, unlike their rival, Cruzeiro, who had two in their trophy cabinet and had even reached another final in 2009.
This generated discomfort among the Atlético Mineiro supporters and management, who decided to assemble a team capable of competing with any team in South America.
Therefore, in 2012, Ronaldinho left Flamengo to join Galo and he was not alone.
The Galo’s team was made up of seasoned, experienced and winning players. Along with Ronaldinho came Jô, who had not had a good spell at Internacional. Soon after, Richarlison, a multi-champion with São Paulo, Diego Tardelli, who was playing in the Arab world, as well as goalkeeper Victor joined the team.
Under the command of coach Cuca, the team took shape and used and abused its cunning and experience. In contrast, they had young Bernard on the wings applying dribbles and adding speed to Galo’s game.
This cunning and genius was put to the test in the most brilliant way right in the first round of the Libertadores.
Galo faced São Paulo at Horto, in Belo Horizonte. At the 13th minute of the first half, there was an injury in midfield and the player needed medical attention. The game unfolded normally and the ball went out for a throw-in in favor of Galo. The referee then stopped the game for Junior Cézar to receive treatment.
The game was paused for a few moments for the player to be attended to. Meanwhile, Ronaldinho Gaúcho walked slowly towards Rogério Ceni, the goalkeeper striker, and asked for a sip of his water. He took a few sips, talked for a few seconds, thanked him, returned the bottle to Rogério and moved towards the sideline at the height of São Paulo’s penalty area.
Ronaldinho is alone, without any marking, a few meters away from Rogério Ceni’s goal. Then, the referee allows the throw-in, but nobody notices Ronaldinho’s presence there, except for Marcos Rocha.
The Galo’s right-back makes the throw-in with his traditional strength and finds Ronaldo free to receive the ball inside the box. The star player controls, passes it back and serves Jô, who scores the goal.
The players are incredulous, claiming some irregularity, which simply did not exist, and the goal was validated. It is important to remember that there is no offside when the pass comes from a throw-in.
This was the beginning of the journey until reaching the most important title in Galo’s history.
That was just a glimpse of what Ronaldinho would do in that competition. He scored 4 goals and delivered 7 assists. Galo continued in the competition despite any statistics, with a penalty save by goalkeeper Victor in the last play against Tijuana and a completely exciting final.
In a packed Mineirão stadium, Atlético tried to reverse the 2-0 score suffered in Asunción against the very traditional Olimpia. In an emotional match, Galo returned the score, scoring their second goal with 3 minutes left in the game and took the decision to penalties.
In the penalty shootout, Victor’s star shone once again. 4-3 for Galo. The supporters celebrated the most important title in their history, which was also a novelty for Ronaldinho.
Ronaldinho showed what he was capable of and became an eternal idol of the popular Galão da Massa in this achievement.
However, not everything is rosy. After winning the Copa Libertadores, Atlético Mineiro went to play the Club World Cup, the supreme title for Brazilian fans. The fans’ expectations already projected a potential clash with Bayern Munich, the Champions League winner. However, it never happened.
Atlético was surprised by the Moroccan team Raja Casablanca and was defeated 3-1 in the semi-finals of the tournament. The fanatical Raja supporters even mention this feat in one of their songs:
“Atlético Mineiro, don’t forget Mitouali and this generation, The name of Raja is present on a street in Brazil”
Thus, Ronaldinho’s cycle was coming to an end at Galo Mineiro until he left the club in 2014 to try an experience in Mexican football. This was the last chance we had to see Ronaldinho Gaúcho play at a high level.
Querétaro e Fluminense: the announced end
Then, in 2015, the Wizard tried to make a comeback to Brazilian football, this time for Fluminense. However, this passage was nothing more than a pipe dream. Ronaldinho no longer felt the love and passion for playing soccer and producing spectacles.
Throughout his career, he divided the responsibility of soccer with his off-field craziness, usually accompanied by many women and getting involved in controversies.
For Flu, he played 7 games and scored no goals, until he announced his retirement from football.
With the end of his career, news began to appear that the management of the money received in his career was not the best. From then on, the star’s personal life became increasingly tumultuous, making headlines for unwanted reasons.
In 2019, Ronaldinho and Assis, his brother and manager, were convicted of environmental crimes and had 57 properties blocked by the courts.
In 2020, he was accused of committing financial fraud involving a company, which Ronaldinho claimed to be a founding partner of. A 25-year-old woman reported that she had been promised a 2% return on investments managed by 18kRonaldinho in Bitcoins. Thus, the young woman was unable to withdraw the funds and the platform used was unavailable.
For these and other reasons, Ronaldinho Gaúcho and Assis’ passports were retained, which caused a historic event.
In March 2020, Ronaldinho and his brother Assis went to Paraguay for the launch of a casino and his biography, “The Genius of Life.” The brothers managed to enter the country, but did not leave anytime soon.
Ronaldinho was in his hotel in Luque, two days after boarding, when he was surprised by Paraguayan prosecutors.
The passports they used were fake. The production of the document was legal, but it contained false information. For the crime, he and his brother were taken to jail.
The Brazilian government, through its diplomatic corps, attempted to extradite Ronaldinho and his brother, but without success. There was no escape, Ronaldo Gaúcho would be imprisoned for 6 months on Paraguayan soil.
But Ronaldinho always knew how to use his power and charisma. During his time in prison, he enjoyed all possible privileges, such as having his meals brought by his lawyers, having a TV in his cell, among other things.
In prison, Ronaldinho became part of the daily life of the inmates. He participated in football and footvolley tournaments, becoming champion, of course. They say he won a pig as a prize for the tournament.
About a month later, Ronaldinho and Assis paid bail and were allowed to serve the rest of their sentence under house arrest, in a hotel in Asuncion.
Since then, Ronaldinho has kept away from the limelight for the wrong reasons, but his public persona remains.
After his release from prison and return to Brazil, Ronaldinho Gaúcho established the “Tropa do Bruxo” project, in which he brought together Brazilian Rap and Trap artists in collaborations.
In addition, he has used his image to act as an ambassador for various causes. Today, he is an ambassador for Barcelona and the Kigs League (an alternative football league created by Gerard Pique).
The union between charisma and football
This is the story of Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, or Ronaldinho Gaúcho.
He is marked and continues to make history for immeasurable factors.
He makes history for everything he left on the field. For his unique way of playing football. For his smile and irreverent way whenever he stepped onto the pitch. Ronaldinho even made those who were not interested in football stop to watch his shows.
More than that. On the field, Ronaldinho Gaúcho was a result. An extremely successful player. Champion of almost everything he competed in, including the World Cup, Copa America, Champions League, and Copa Libertadores.
Off the field, his charisma remains the same. Much of it is due to his ability to face life’s adversities with a smile on his face, a typical trait of the Brazilian people. In fact, he embodies what it means to be Brazilian, in many aspects. This must be one of the reasons why it is difficult to find a human being who truly dislikes Ronaldinho Gaúcho.
What will be the next “random adventure” of the Bruxo?
Written by Vitor F. L. Miller