Ronaldinho

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Ronaldo de Assis Moreira (born 21 March 1980 in Porto Alegre), commonly known as Ronaldinho or Ronaldinho Gaúcho,[1] is a Brazilian footballer who plays for Italian Serie A side Milan and the Brazilian national team.

Ronaldinho, Portuguese for "Little Ronaldo," is known in Brazil by the nickname "Gaúcho," in order to distinguish him from Ronaldo, who was already called "Ronaldinho" in Brazil. Ronaldo simply went by his first name upon his move to Europe, thereby allowing Ronaldinho to drop the "Gaúcho" and remain simply as Ronaldinho.

Prior to his move to Milan, he played for Paris Saint-Germain, and Barcelona, with whom he won his first Champions League in 2006. He became a Spanish citizen in January 2007.[2]

Biography and personal life

Ronaldinho was born in city of Porto Alegre, capital of the Rio Grande do Sul state of Brazil. His mother, Dona Miguelina, is a former salesperson who studied to become a nurse. His father, João, was a shipyard worker and footballer for local club Esporte Clube Cruzeiro (not to be confused with Cruzeiro EC).[3] He suffered a fatal heart attack in the family swimming pool when Ronaldinho was eight. After Ronaldinho's older brother, Roberto, signed with Grêmio, the family moved to a home in the more affluent Guarujá section of Porto Alegre, which was a gift from Grêmio to convince Roberto to stay at the club. Roberto's career was ultimately cut short by injury.

Ronaldinho's football skills began to blossom at an early age, and he was first given the nickname Ronaldinho because he was often the youngest and the smallest player in youth club matches.[4] He developed an interest in futsal and beach football, which later expanded to organized football. His first brush with the media came at the age of thirteen, when he scored all 23 goals in a 23-0 victory against a local team.[5] Ronaldinho was identified as a rising star at the 1997 U-17 World Championship in Egypt, in which he scored two goals on penalty kicks.[6][7]

Today, Roberto acts as Ronaldinho's manager, while his sister, Deisi, works as his press coordinator.[8][9] Ronaldinho became a father for the first time on 25 February 2005, after Brazilian dancer Janaína Mendes gave birth to their son, who was named João after Ronaldinho's late father. [10]

Club career

Early career

Ronaldinho's career began with the Grêmio youth squad under head coach Liam Higgins. He made his senior side debut during the 1998 Copa Libertadores.[11] In 2001, Arsenal expressed interest in signing Ronaldinho, but the move collapsed after he could not obtain a work permit because he was a non-EU player who had not played enough international matches.[12] He considered playing on loan with Scottish Premier League side St. Mirren, which never happened due to his involvement in a fake passport scandal in Brazil.[13] In 2001, Ronaldinho signed a five-year contract with French side Paris Saint-Germain.

During the 2001-02 season, Paris Saint-Germain manager Luis Fernández claimed that Ronaldinho was too focused on the Parisian nightlife rather than football, and complained that his holidays in Brazil never ended at the scheduled times.[11] In 2003, less than two years into his PSG stint, Ronaldinho made it clear he wanted to leave the club after PSG failed to qualify for any European competition.

Barcelona

Originally, Barcelona president 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 outbid Manchester United for his signature. He made his team début in a friendly against Milan at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C, scoring one goal in a 2-0 victory. After suffering from injury during the first half of the campaign, he returned and helped lead Barcelona to a second-place league finish.

Ronaldinho won his first league title in 2004-05, and was named FIFA World Player of the Year on 20 December 2004. In 2005, Ronaldinho received his second consecutive honour of FIFA World Player of the Year, beating Chelsea's Frank Lampard and fellow Barcelona player Samuel Eto'o. On 8 March 2005, Barcelona was eliminated from the UEFA Champions League by Chelsea in the first knockout round, with Ronaldinho scoring both goals in a 4-2 loss.[14]

With his contract expiring in 2008, Ronaldinho was offered an extension until 2014 that would have net him £85 million over nine years,[15] but he turned it down. In September 2005, he signed a two-year extension that contained a minimum-fee release clause that allowed him to leave should a club make an offer to Barcelona of at least £85 million for him.[16]

By the end of the 2004-05 season, Ronaldinho had started to accumulate a host of personal awards. He won the inaugural FIFPro World Player of the Year in September 2005, in addition to being included in the 2005 FIFPro World XI, and being named the 2005 European Footballer of the Year. Also that year, Ronaldinho added to his collection a second FIFA World Player of the Year with 956 points, more than triple the amount (306) of runner-up Frank Lampard. On 19 November, Ronaldinho scored twice as Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 3-0 on the road in the first leg of El Clásico. After he sealed the match with his second goal, he received a standing ovation from the Madrid fans.

Ronaldinho was chosen for the UEFA Team of the Year for the third consecutive time in January 2006, and he contributed one goal in Barcelona's elimination of Benfica in the '05-06 Champions League quarterfinals with a 2-0 home victory. After a 1-0 semifinal aggregate win over Milan, in which Ronaldinho assisted the series' only goal by Ludovic Giuly, Barcelona progressed to the Champions League final, which they won on 17 May 2006 with a 2-1 defeat of Arsenal. Two weeks earlier, Barcelona had clinched their second straight La Liga title with a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo, giving Ronaldinho his first career double. He finished the season with a career-best 26 goals in all competitions, and was named the 2005-06 Champions League Player of the Year.

On 25 November 2006, Ronaldinho scored his fiftieth career league goal against Villarreal, then later scored a second time with an overhead bicycle kick. He later said to reporters that the latter was a goal he had dreamed of scoring since he was a boy.[17] He scored once and set up two others in Barcelona's 4-0 Club World Cup win over Mexico's Club América on 14 December, but Barcelona were defeated 1-0 by Brazilian club Internacional in the final.[18] Ronaldinho was nonetheless the recipient of the Bronze Ball Award for the competition.

The next day, Ronaldinho finished third in the running for the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year, behind World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro and Zinédine Zidane.[19] Ronaldinho was named among the UEFA Team of the Year for the third straight time in January 2007, receiving the highest number of votes with over 290,000 nominations.[20] He was forced to miss a charity match on 13 March due to an injury he had picked up several days earlier in Barcelona's 3-3 El Clásico draw with Real Madrid.[21][22]

File:Ronaldinho Milan.jpg
Ronaldinho playing for Milan

He played his 200th career match for Barcelona in a league match against Osasuna on 3 February 2008. However, his 2007-08 campaign as a whole was plagued by injuries, and a muscle tear in his right leg on 3 April prematurely ended his season.[23] On 19 May, Laporta stated that Ronaldinho needed a "new challenge," claiming that he needed a new club if he were to revive his career.[24] Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra confirmed on 6 June that he was interested in acquiring him.[25]

Ronaldinho and Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi each captained a team of international stars in an anti-racism exhibition match in Venezuela on 28 June, which ended in a 7-7 draw. Ronaldinho finished with a pair of goals and two assists in what would be his last match as a Barcelona player.[26]

Milan

Ronaldinho turned down a £25.5 million offer from Manchester City[27] to join Italian giants Milan on a three-year contract, after he was purchased from Barcelona for €21 million.[28] With the number 10 already occupied by teammate Clarence Seedorf, he selected 80 as his jersey number, because 1980 was his birth year. Ronaldinho scored his first goal for Milan in a 1-0 derby victory over Internazionale on 28 September 2008, and his first brace was in a 3-0 win over Sampdoria on October 19, 2008. He scored a 93rd-minute match-winner against Braga in the UEFA Cup group stage on November 6.

International career

Ronaldinho is one of few Brazilian players to have played at every international age level. He was part of the first Brazilian team to win the FIFA U-17 World Championship in 1997, in which his first goal was a penalty against Austria in the first group match, which Brazil won 7-0. Ronaldinho finished with two goals and was awarded the Bronze Ball award as Brazil scored a total of twenty-one goals while only conceding two.

1999 was a busy year for Ronaldinho in terms of international play. He took part in the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship, scoring his first goal in Brazil's last group match. In the round of sixteen, he scored two first-half goals in a 4-0 win over Croatia, and finished with three goals as Brazil were eliminated by Uruguay in the quarterfinals. On 26 June, three days before the start of the 1999 Copa América, he earned his first cap for Brazil in a 3-0 win over Latvia, and he scored one goal during Brazil's victorious Copa América campaign. One week after the conclusion of the Copa América, he was called up for the 1999 Confederations Cup, in which he scored in every match except the final, including a hat-trick in an 8-2 semifinal rout of Saudi Arabia. Ronaldinho did not score in the final, which Brazil lost 4-3 to Mexico. He won the Golden Ball award for the best player in tournament as well as the Golden Boot award for the tournament top-scorer.

In 2000, Ronaldinho participated in Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia with Brazil U-23 team. Earlier that year, Ronaldinho led Brazil to win the Pre-Olympic Tournament, scoring nine goals in seven matches. However in the Olympics, Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinal by Cameroon, who later won the gold medal. Ronaldinho appeared four times and scored only one goal, which came in the quarterfinal defeat by Cameroon.

Ronaldinho participated in his first World Cup in 2002, as part of a formidable offensive unit with Ronaldo and Rivaldo, who were also on the 1999 Copa América winning squad. He appeared in five matches and scored two goals. The first goal came in the group stage match against China, which Brazil won 4-0. The second goal was a match-winning goal in the quarterfinal against England on 21 June. In the 50th minute, Ronaldinho took a free-kick from 35 metres, beating England goalkeeper David Seaman to give Brazil a 2-1 lead. However, seven minutes later, he was sent-off for a foul on England defender Danny Mills. He was suspended for the semifinal, but returned to Brazil's starting lineup for the 2-0 victory over Germany in the final as Brazil won the World Cup for the fifth time.

Ronaldinho's next international tournament was 2003 Confederations Cup. However, Ronaldinho did not manage to score any goals during the tournament as Brazil performed poorly and was eliminated in the group stage. The following year, he was left out from Brazil's 2004 Copa América squad, as coach Carlos Alberto Parreira decided to rest his stars and used a largely reserve squad.[29]

He captained Brazil to its second Confederations Cup title in 2005, and was named Man of the Match in a 4-1 victory over archrivals Argentina in the final on 29 June. Ronaldinho scored three goals in the tournament and is tied with Cuauhtémoc Blanco as the tournament's all-time scorer with nine goals.

File:Ronaldinho and Lula.jpg
Ronaldinho with Brazilian President Lula

Ronaldinho started in all five of Brazil's 2006 World Cup finals matches as part of a much-publicized "magic quartet" of offensive players, alongside Adriano, Ronaldo, and Kaká. However, the foursome finished with only five goals as Brazil disappointed as a whole in the tournament. Ronaldinho turned in his worst collective performance in his international career, going scoreless with only one assist, which was for Gilberto's goal in a 4-1 group stage victory over Japan. He was a non-factor as Brazil was eliminated by France 1-0 in the quarterfinal, in which Brazil had only one shot on goal for the entire match.[30] The team was harshly criticized by Brazilian fans and media following their return home. On 3 July, two days after Brazil's elimination, vandals immolated and destroyed a 7.5-meter (23-foot) tall fiberglass and resin statue of Ronaldinho in Chapecó.[31] The statue had been erected in 2004 to celebrate his first FIFA World Player of the Year award. That same day, 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 aggravated the hard feelings of many Brazilian fans, who believed that they were betrayed by the lack of effort from the squad.[32]

On 24 March 2007, he scored twice in a 4-0 win over Chile, which marked his first goal since the 2005 Confederations Cup final and thus ended a scoreless streak that lasted nearly two years.[33] He was not called up for the 2007 Copa América after asking to be excused from the tournament due to tiredness.[34] On 18 October, he was controversially benched by Barcelona after he was late returning to Spain following Brazil's 5-0 friendly win over Ecuador. He and several Brazil players celebrated the win by partying through the night at a posh Rio de Janeiro nightclub. Ronaldinho left at 11 a.m. the next morning, allegedly in the trunk of a car in order to avoid the media.[35]

On 7 July 2008, Ronaldinho was named to Brazil's 2008 Summer Olympics squad as one of the over-age players.[36] Barcelona initially blocked the move because of his then-upcoming Champions League commitments with the club, but the decision was later nullified following Ronaldinho's transfer to Milan, who in turn permitted him to make the trip to Beijing.[37] Ronaldinho scored his only two goals in a decisive 5-0 defeat of New Zealand before Brazil was beaten by Argentina in the semifinal. Brazil finished with the bronze medal after defeating Belgium 3-0 in the bronze medal match.

References

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