At the recent SDS Live Show, they played a game of start, sub sell between: Ronaldo (‘R9’), Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho. And all hell broke loose.
When comparing ‘great players’ to ‘greats of the game’, you can fall into this trap of believing they’re not anywhere near as good as them. Or nostalgia might take over and make things even worse. So it speaks volumes about Ronaldinho that he falls into that in-between area.
How Good was Ronaldinho?
I’ve seen a lot of debates lately and to be honest, it’s a little depressing.
More specifically, too many young fans are trying so desperately to compare the talents of today with the heroes of yesterday, which is something which never ends well.
So, you have a flashy, extroverted and enigmatic star like Ronaldinho. Today’s equivalent (also from Brazil), would have to be Neymar. But they’re nothing alike. ‘Ronnie‘ played with joy. He smiled as he strolled past you and even wider when he nutmegged you on the way back just for fun.
Neymar is a great player in his own right, that’s for sure. His time will come to be remembered in a similar vein to Ronaldinho. But that hasn’t happened yet, and it’s important to remember that.
Like most top Brazilian players, his arrival at the fore of the game started at home.
In his case, it was his boyhood club Gremio (previous employers of his brother, Assis) who would house the mercurial wing-wizard in his formative years, and what a place to do it!
The Brazilian league – like much of South America – is a school of hard knocks. You learn on the job, see if you have the nerve and are better for it. Despite the ‘samba‘ style of the Brazilian way, the tricks and flicks don’t endear as much to opponents as they do to the crowds that are watching.
Ronaldinho’s story started to bloom in a key game against Internacional, where he encountered then-World Cup captain Dunga. The centre-back still remembers that flick over his head with disdain, but it was only the beginning for his young compatriot, who was endearing himself to audiences all around the world with each time he stepped onto their turf.
As far as the shirt is concerned, Grêmio are one of the most stylish Brazilian clubs in the world. An iconic badge, eye-catching livery and great players to match, they are a must-have in this world of football shirts merging into the streetwear area.
To read more about a number of other clubs (this time from the MLS in America) and their adoption of turning their football shirts into fashionable pieces – check it out here.
Paris Saint-Germain (2001-03)
Apparently, this move caused quite a bit of a stir back in Brazil when it happened.
Normally, the process of moving from South America to Central Europe is a bit of a beaten path and isn’t treated like it’s anything ‘new’ or ‘forbidden’ – like we saw with Ronaldo, Romario and Neymar.
However, the Parisians had made use of the Bosman rule – the eponymous law enabling players to move freely between clubs upon the expiry of the contract. I’m not sure how this works myself, but I’ll assume that it applies to the buying club – as PSG took full advantage and procured Ronaldinho’s employment without the need for a transfer fee to Gremio.
Upon moving, the bright lights and excitement of Paris matched well with their new Brazilian. Dazzling audiences from all over the country for nearly two full seasons in a topsy-turvy PSG side.
One thing that stayed consistent however were the impressive threads he donned during that time. Particularly the home shirt for 2002/03 with the Opel sponsor. It’s a work of art.
And as Classic Football Shirts indicated in the above tweet, the away shirt wasn’t bad, either!
FC Barcelona (2003-08)
It was a tough time for FC Barcelona, given what their biggest rivals were doing.
Backed by the now-infamous (depending on how you look at it) ‘Galactico‘ Policy, president Florentino Perez was hell-bent on making sure that his Real Madrid team bought their way to global success by acquiring the best talents in the world. Until this point, he’d already sorted Figo and Zidane!
The next step was a winger, and he centred on Manchester United’s David Beckham – plucking him right out of Barca’s grasp, who was made to settle on Ronaldinho – not a bad reserve, right?
Eventually going on to win the UEFA Champions League and his very own Ballon D’Or, Catalunya is where we saw the very best of Ronaldinho – especially at the expense of their Madrid enemy.
Immortalised forever in our minds, and to those who watched the opening scene of the second Goal! Movie, Barcelona’s 3-0 away win over them in the 2005 El Classic can never be forgotten. It’s not that often that Los Blancos fans would applaud the efforts of a Blaugrana player.
Those classic colours, the bright yellow name-set – it’s a classic.
AC Milan (2008-11)
There’s an image from this period and I still think about it from time to time.
I didn’t know this at the time, but apparently Manchester City were interested in signing Ronaldinho as they entered their new era under Sheikh Mansour, but a move never did materialise in the end.
Instead, he chose to relocate to Milan in the famous red and black colours of the Rossoneri. And the image I’m talking about is the famous ‘who would you rather have to take this free-kick?’ still.
It happened multiple times throughout his tenure there, but particularly around 2009/10 – when David Beckham joined from the LA Galaxy on off-season loan spells. So, when taking set-pieces, Milan had three options to take them directly: Ronaldinho, Andrea Pirlo and David Beckham.
Oh, to be a goalkeeper in the Serie A at that time!
Though he did join coming off the back of a relatively solemn era in AC Milan’s history, he was there to wear the last remnants of their best jerseys to thus day. The number ‘80‘ looks a little odd, but was his choice after confirmation that Clarence Seedorf would stay wearing the number ’10’.
If anything, the strange numbering makes the piece even more collectible. Like when Ronaldo Nazario chose to wear the number ’99’ because ‘9’ wasn’t better – and he was 10x better than them, I guess?
He made a few different moves towards the latter end of his career – including to Atletico Minerio and Fluminense, but the strongest memories were made in the red and black of Flamengo.
At the time of his free move away from Italy, he was linked with multiple moves elsewhere – including the MLS and even with Blackburn under their controversial ownership with the Venky Group.
Instead, he went home – surprisingly ignoring the advances of Grêmio in the process.
The reason I chose to focus on Flamengo and why most fans remember it so vividly, comes down to a pivotal ‘passing of the torch’ moment between his side and Santos – then home to an up-and-coming Neymar Jr, with both the ‘old hero’ and ‘young pretender’ set to put on a show for the ages.
Ronaldinho would go on to score a hat-trick on the day, with Neymar’s team narrowly losing 5-4 in an epic encounter which saw him take away the Puskas award as a consolation later on in 2011.
I’m not a fan of the front-of-shirt Batavo sponsorship, but the colours, the badge and the memories are enough to make me want this as part of my collection. That being said, a pristine one is like finding a needle on a haystack nowadays.
They don’t make ’em like Ronaldinho anymore.
Regardless of who you support, it would appear that everybody adores this man and depending on the era you started watching football, he’s probably a reason for why you stayed.
Because of this, mementos from his career are aesthetic, memorable and very collectible. Prices will continue to surge as scarcity begins to kick in, so now’s as good a time as any to get searching.
What’s your favourite Ronaldinho shirt from his career?