His name Ronaldinho, Portuguese for "little Ronaldo", was originally devised as a means of distinguishing between himself and fellow Brazilian football star Ronaldo, with the additional title Gaúcho being used when the current Ronaldo was also known as Ronaldinho. Among his many achievements and accolades, Ronaldinho has been awarded the FIFA World Player of the Year award twice (2004, 2005), as well as the European Footballer of the Year award and the FIFPro World Player of the Year award (2005). He has downplayed suggestions that he is the best footballer in the world, telling FourFourTwo magazine, "I don't even feel I'm the best at Barça."
Ronaldinho was born in Vila Nova, a poor suburb of Porto Alegre, Brazil. He
was the youngest of three children. Ronaldinho's mother Miguelina is a former
salesperson who later studied to become a nurse. His father João was a shipyard
worker and footballer for Cruzeiro. The family moved to a more affluent district
of Porto Alegre when Ronaldinho's older brother Roberto signed to play
professional football for Grêmio. João died when Ronaldinho was 8, after
suffering a heart attack while swimming in the family's pool. Injuries ended
Roberto's career prematurely, and he now manages Ronaldinho. Ronaldinho's sister
Deisi works as his press coordinator. Ronaldinho's son, named João after his
father, was born on 25 February, 2005. João's mother is Janaína Nattielle Viana
Mendes, a former dancer on the Brazilian television show Domingão do Faustão.
In his childhood, Ronaldinho's skill in football began to blossom due to his particular interest in futsal and beach football, which later developed into a fondness for more standardised football. His first brush with the media came after a 23 goal flurry against a local team, at just 13 years of age. His reputation as a footballer was built up through his childhood, particularly since he was identified as a rising star at the Egypt 1997 under-17 world championship. He scored two goals in the tournament, both penalty kicks.
He is a huge fan of Brazilian music, and occasionally plays the drums and sings with friends in Barcelona.
Ronaldinho's career began in the youth team at Porto Alegre club Grêmio, under head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who would later coach the Brazilian national team to glory in the 2002 World Cup. His first senior appearance came in the 1998 Libertadores Cup, and his penchant for goalscoring was quickly displayed, his career soon generating interest due to his phenomenal ball control and ability to score. This was followed by his introduction into the Brazilian national team in 1999.
Towards the end of his career at Grêmio, in 2001, many clubs from all over the world, particularly Premiership teams in England, were eager to sign him as an attempt to attain a player who was both a "big name" and was also performing well. Despite several generous bids from Premiership teams (who would not have been able to sign him due to work permit restrictions) and several requests from Grêmio, Ronaldinho signed a five-year contract with PSG, to which he moved at the beginning of the following season.
In 2001 Ronaldinho left Grêmio to play European football. Despite bids from much larger clubs, he opted to play for PSG. During his time at PSG, the manager, Luis Fernandez, claimed that Ronaldinho was too focused on the Parisian nightlife rather than on his football, and complained that his holidays in Brazil would always drag on and never end at the scheduled times.
After the 2002 World Cup, having shown his worth on the international scene, there was no shortage of interest from bigger clubs. In 2003, Ronaldinho made it clear he wanted to leave PSG after they failed to qualify for any European competitions. Ronaldinho's desire to leave set off a bidding war among the top European clubs (Manchester United and FC Barcelona the notable examples) for his services. The club that ended up winning the battle for his services was FC Barcelona.
On July 19, 2003, FC Barcelona acquired Ronaldinho for £18 million. Originally, Barcelona chairman Joan Laporta had promised to bring David Beckham to the club, but following his transfer to Real Madrid, Barcelona entered the running for Ronaldinho and beat Manchester United to his signature. It was thought that a failure on the part of the English and French clubs to agree on a fee was the reason Manchester United's deal fell through. Ronaldinho is also said to have signed with Barcelona instead of Manchester United because of his friendship with former Nike executive in Brazil and Barcelona's then vice-president in charge of sports, Sandro Rosell. Ronaldinho's signing with Barcelona follows in the footsteps of a number of illustrious fellow countrymen who enjoyed successful careers with the club, including Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo.
Barcelona quickly showcased the talents of their new striker in an exhibition match against AC Milan. The match took place in front of a crowd of 45,000 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Barcelona had a 1-0 lead through most of the first half, and they increased their lead to 2-0 when Ronaldinho scored in the 51st minute. Having received a short pass from Xavi, Ronaldinho fired a shot that spun around Fernando Redondo and into the net, landing him his first goal for the club.
After returning from injury in the first half of the campaign, Ronaldinho continued to justify his price tag by leading Barcelona to a second-place finish in La Liga during the 2003/04 season. Along with Samuel Eto'o, Deco, Xavi, Ludovic Giuly and Henrik Larsson, Ronaldinho comprises part of a strike force which helped bring the 2004/05 La Liga title for FC Barcelona. On December 20, 2004, Ronaldinho was named FIFA World Player of the Year ahead of Arsenal's Thierry Henry and AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko. It was then that Barcelona rejected a £60 million bid made for him by Chelsea F.C., according to Sandro Rosell.
In March 2005, Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea in the first knockout round. Ronaldinho scored a penalty kick and an impressive solo goal in the 4-2 loss at Stamford Bridge.
In June 2005, Rosell resigned from the Barcelona administration following a bust-up with Joan Laporta, and it was feared that his resignation would spell the end for Ronaldinho and Barcelona's association as well. With Ronaldinho's contract running only into 2008, he was offered a contract until 2014 that would net him £85 million over those 9 years, which he rejected. Later that year in September, he signed a two-year extension of his original contract on with FC Barcelona. The new contract contains a minimum fee release clause that allows him to leave should a club make an offer to Barcelona of at least £85 million for him.
On November 19, 2005, he scored two solo goals to help FC Barcelona to a 3–0 win over arch-rivals Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid. After he scored his second goal of the night, his team's third, a large part of the Madrid faithful gave him a standing ovation, a rare feat which had not occurred since Diego Maradona played for Barcelona in 1985.
In September 2005, Ronaldinho was crowned FifPro Player of the year, an award voted for by his fellow professionals. He was also named in the FifPro team of the year alongside the likes of Zidane and Maldini. In November 2005 Ronaldinho was named as both the European Footballer of the Year and the best striker in the 2004-05 Champions League. In 2005, Ronaldinho became the third Brazilian to win the Ballon d'Or Award. On December 19, 2005, he was again named FIFA World Player of the Year with 956 points, more than three times the 306 points of Chelsea's Frank Lampard, who finished second in the poll, and the 190 points of Barcelona teammate Samuel Eto'o who finished third. He was chosen for the UEFA team of 2005 for the third time running in January 2006.
On March 7, 2006, in the 2nd leg of the Champions League first knockout round at Nou Camp, Ronaldinho avenged Barcelona's defeat to Chelsea in the same competition the previous year, running past the Chelsea defense to score. Although the game ended 1-1, Barcelona progressed to the Champions League quarterfinal. In the first semi-final leg, against AC Milan in the San Siro, Ronaldinho once again proved his worth with a superb pass for the goal volleyed in by Ludovic Giuly, which brought Barcelona a 1-0 victory. The second leg game ended in a goalless draw despite a disallowed goal from Andriy Shevchenko in the 70th minute. The 0-0 result with AC Milan brought Barcelona to the 2006 Champions League Final in Paris against Arsenal F.C., who had not conceded a goal in ten Champions League matches, a competition record.
On May 3, 2006, Barcelona were crowned 2005/2006 La Liga champions after they beat Celta Vigo 1-0.
On May 17, 2006, Barcelona became European champions after defeating Arsenal 2-1 in the Champions League final. In this match Ronaldinho was kept relatively subdued and the goals came from Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti, who were both assisted by Henrik Larsson. Ronaldinho finished the season with 25 goals in all competitions, his best goalscoring tally ever.
Ronaldinho debuted for the Brazilian national team on June 26, 1999 against Latvia. In his first tournament participation he scored against Venezuela in the 1999 Copa América, a game that the Brazilian team won.
Ronaldinho played a part in Brazil's successful 2002 campaign to win the World Cup, forming the famed "3 R's" with Ronaldo and Rivaldo. One of the highlights of the tournament was a 35-metre free kick he scored against England in the quarter-finals in Shizuoka. He was sent off soon after for a foul on Danny Mills. Following the sending-off, he was suspended for the semifinal, but returned to Brazil's starting line-up for the 2-0 victory over Germany in the final.
On June 29, 2005, he played a pivotal role as the captain of the Brazilian squad that won its second FIFA Confederations Cup title, and was named Man of the Match in a 4–1 victory over Argentina in the final. Pelé named Ronaldinho in his 125 Top Living Footballers in March 2004.
In the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Ronaldinho was a starting player for all of Brazil's five matches, but his performances were considered disappointing by both fans and commentators. He scored no goals and made only one assist (for Gilberto's goal in a 4-1 victory over Japan). When Brazil were eliminated by France 1-0 in the quarterfinal, he failed to make an impression.
Immediately after the World Cup disappointment, the team was criticized by many Brazilians, and vandals immolated and destroyed a 7.5-meter (23-foot) tall fiberglass and resin statue of Ronaldinho in the Brazilian city of Chapecó. The statue had been erected in 2004 to celebrate his first election as FIFA World Player of the Year.
Two days after the loss, Ronaldinho, joined by Adriano, returned to Barcelona and held a party at his home, which was continued into the early morning hours at a nightclub. This increased the feeling of Brazilian fans that they were betrayed by the lack of effort from their national team. This reaction contrasted with other players such as Rogerio Ceni, who was ashamed of the game and said "some defeats are marked by struggle, but we lost in an infelicitous way, that wasn't what we had hoped for" and Zé Roberto, who cried and said that "the unity that we had outside the pitch, lacked inside it".
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