One of the most important players to FC Barcelona’s success under Joan Laporta has been Ronaldo de Assis Moreira from Brazil, although many people will not recognise him under that name. More usually known as Ronaldinho, sometimes shortened to Ronnie, or otherwise as Gaucho, he is one of the top players in the world and has set the game of football in Spain alight.
Ronaldinho came to Barcelona in 2003 after spending two years with Paris Saint-Germain. The person usually credited with him coming on board is Sando Rosell, who at the time was Vice President of the club and Laporta’s right hand man. Ronaldinho quickly established himself as a firm favourite with Barcelona’s supporters with the ability to entertain with his ball control as well as score.
After several years of indifferent results Barcelona started to regain its confidence and by the end if the 2003-2004 season were back in full swing, finished in second place in the league behind Valencia, with attendances at the Nou Camp growing with each match.
Ronaldinho was born in Porto Alegre in Brazil in 1980 and honed his skills as a child playing indoor and beach football. Aged just 13 he came to the attention of the local media when he scored all the goals in a victory against a local team. When you learn that Ronaldinho’s team won 23-0 you get some idea of how impressive a feat that was.
His first team as a professional player was Grêmio in 1998, which his older brother, Roberto, had played for earlier – his own football career was cut short through injury and he eventually became the manager of Ronaldinho instead.
With his magic touch of the ball and a clear ability to score, Ronaldinho was snapped up by the Brazilian squad in 1999 and was clear interest from a number of big-name European clubs, Ronaldinho signed with Paris Saint-Germain in 2001.
Whether he was unhappy in Paris, or enjoying the nightlife too much as manager Luis Fernandez claimed is unclear, but for whatever reason he was unable to produce the on-pitch pyrotechnics that he is famous for and by 2003 Ronaldinho made it clear that he was looking to move on.
Both FC Barcelona and Manchester United went after him, but when Manchester and Paris Saint-Germain were unable to agree transfer terms the way was clear for FC Barcelona to get the Brazilian’s signature.
Ronaldinho’s debut was on a summer tour of the United States, when the club played an exhibition match against AC Milan in which he scored. He quickly became a favourite of the club, when time after time he was able to produce impressive displays of ball control in which was able to show off his natural talents that whether they made it to the back of the net always left him with his trademark toothy grin across his face.
In addition to the La Liga and Champions League titles that Ronaldinho helped propel Barcelona towards, he also has been awarded some of football’s top individual awards. In 2004 and 2005 he won the FIFA World Player of the Year award, the European Footballer of the Year in 2005 and worldwide professional footballers association, FIFPro’s World Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006.
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