Ronaldinho retires: Remembering the magician who put Joga Bonito in football

“This is not normal. He’s not normal, he never has been. He lives on the magnetic spectrum.” Commentator and former footballer Ray Hudson absolutely lost his cool after Ronaldinho scored one of the most outrageous goals seen on the pitch.

It was a thing of beauty, as were many of the goals he scored, controlling the ball on his chest and putting an overhead kick in the back of the net with the nonchalance of a man who has popped out in the corner to pick up a newspaper.

So, when reports poured in that the Brazilian who put Joga Bonito into football would not play another professional match, one could only remember the magical years in the first half of the 2000s, when he dazzled at PSG and Barcelona.

Of course, the Brazilian’s peak had long passed, and he hadn’t played a professional game since 2015, but the knowledge, that we will no longer see that infectious smile on the pitch is a sad day for all football fans.

Ronaldinho’s career began with Gremio in Porto Alegre, his hometown, before he emerged as a star with French giants PSG. All of 18, he humiliated Brazilian captain Dunga by flicking the ball over his head

He then spent five years with Barcelona between 2003 and 2008, helping the Catalans win the Champions League in 2006, after being awarded the Ballon d’Or in 2005.

At his best, and most football fans would agree, there was no one who played quite like Ronaldinho. Even accounting for the last 10 years, where Messi and Ronaldo are hell-bent to rewrite every goal-scoring feat in club football, Ronaldinho came to the field with the attitude of a young boy playing with his mates on the beach.

He could pass the ball from anywhere, make it defy the laws of gravity even as defenders around him appeared to stand still, an awestruck audience at a magic show. Elasticos, Rabonas, 360 turns – he did everything and more.

As his teammate at Barcelona Eidur Gudjohnsen put it, “When you play with him and see what he does with a ball, nothing surprises me anymore. One of these days, he will make the ball talk.”

While those around him toiled and huffed and puffed, he smiled, and as Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard put it in the 2005-2006 season, “He transmits a lot of joy and pleasure playing the game, and he has individual skills that are of such a high level that everybody in the world adores him.”

While in a couple of years later, Pep Guardiola would arrive with his all-conquering Barcelona team with a holy axis of Messi-Xavi-Iniesta, it was Ronaldinho who put the wheels in motion that helped the Catalan club become the most dominant one in world football.

Before 2005-06, Barcelona had won the Champions League/European Cup just once in 1991-92, after the 2005-06 victory they would go on to claim it three more times to cement their place as a European heavyweight.

In the four years he spent at Barcelona, he redefined how football could be played, and even earned a standing ovation from Real Madrid supporters after a 3-0 thrashing, such was his quality.

He even made the world’s best keepers look like lost school children and was a deadly set-piece specialist.

Two moments that absolutely stood out was the free-kick against England in the 2002 World Cup which left David Seaman pondering the laws of gravity and an impudent chip against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final that left Petr Cech rooted to his spot.

The only downside was his lifestyle, which saw his peak not last as long as it should have.

 A hard-partying lifestyle meant he wasn’t at his fittest but then one can argue that without his joie de vivre he wouldn’t have been the same player. His carefree spirit was the reason he wasn’t afraid to try the most outrageous things on the field, and perhaps he just wasn’t born to shackle the spirit outside it.

After leaving Barcelona, he spent time in Milan where they occasional flashes of brilliance and then meandered off to a host of clubs across Brazil and even Mexico, looking to recapture the glory days that never truly came back.

He even turned for a futsal tournament in India and showed us what made him so special.

While one can’t help but think what could’ve been, those of us who saw him at his peak will always remember the uncontained joy of watching a magician.

He was a footballer who brought the fabled Brazilian spirit of Joga Bonito into the game and reminded us that football was much more than tactics – it was simply about having fun. It’s unlikely we will ever see his kind again, so it’s time to return to old Youtube videos.

Source: Google Sports

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