The iconic image of him lifting Lionel Messi on his back after the 17-year-old Argentinian scored the first of 672 Barcelona goals endures and has become all the more noteworthy after Messi mirrored the move of Ronaldinho. While the Brazilian went from Paris Saint-Germain to the Camp Nou, Messi has done the opposite.
But while Leo will likely spend the twilight years of his career at the Parc des Princes, it was in that stadium that Ronaldinho transformed from one country’s next big hope into the world’s favourite footballer. The birth ofThe king.
The moveFollowing his brilliance at the Copa America in 1999, it became painfully clear to even the most hardened of Gremio ultras that Ronaldinho’s future lay in Europe. Five years earlier, Ronaldo was plucked from Cruzeiro by PSV following the 1994 World Cup. Now it was the turn of the Imortal Tricolor to feel that agony.
Inter Milan were desperate to partner Ronaldo with the next great Brazilian talent but they faced competition from Arsenal, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. In the end, Ronaldinho opted for a low-key move. Yes, the club that has just signed Messi was considered low-key just over 20 years ago. But there was logic to the choice. With the Japan-South Korea World Cup the following summer, he did not want to risk becoming a benchwarmer for a European giant.
It was anything but a smooth process, however. December 2000 saw PSG announce that they had agreed to sign the attacker in a pre-contract agreement, declaring that Ronaldinho would arrive in Paris in the summer ahead of the 2001-02 season.
The only issue was that this was the first Gremio had heard of the deal.Club president Jose Guerreiro was furious. As a result of what they saw as a shady deal, Gremio would not receive a penny for the superstar who had spent 14 years at the club. “I’ve just read the news on PSG’s website,” said Guerreiro in a statement at the time. “We are in the middle of negotiations to renew Ronaldinho’s contract and PSG have never contacted us.”FIFA were brought in to adjudicate.
In the meantime it was decided that Ronaldinho could not play until the matter was resolved, leaving him sidelined for months. His agent even looked into getting him a loan move to St. Mirren in order to maintain his match sharpness. Desperate times and all that.
He was like my kid brother, I realised he was just so talented and he just needed someone to guide himNigeria’s Jay-Jay Okocha
Mauricio Pochettino was his new captain , while the likes of Gabriel Heinze and Nicolas Anelka also floated around the training camp. The most important of his new colleagues, however, was Jay-Jay Okocha.“He was like my kid brother,” the Nigerian trickster said of Ronaldinho. “I realised he was just so talented and he just needed someone to guide him.” Before the Brazilian, Okocha was THE fun-loving footballer who children around the world sought to emulate .
Were it not for him, we may never have seen Ronaldinho at his mesmeric best.“Ronaldinho tried to imitate some of my skills and dribbles,” the Bolton Wanderers icon said in a 2017 interview.Two assists and one goal from the penalty spot was all Ronaldinho had to show from his first 13 games in Europe. By this point, Kaka was on the charge back home, the baby-faced Sao Paolo maestro suddenly the fancied starter in the Selecao attack alongside Rivaldo and Ronaldo.
Like SamsonClose your eyes now and think about Ronaldinho; what are the stand out physical characteristics of the Brazil and Barcelona legend? His agility? Sure. His smile? Who could forget? His hair? Exactly.
Upon his arrival on European soil, Ronaldinho was still rocking what was closer to a buzzcut than the iconic flowing locks that have soared behind him and bobbed teasingly in front of chasing defenders since. It is not that he could never perform with that particular style – he terrorised the entirety of South America in 1999 with that one-all-over look – but perhaps certain locations demand certain hairdos
Ronaldinho had to step up. Six goals in six games came between January 5 and January 30: two composed penalties, two ice-cold finishes and two trademark free-kicks against Rennes and Lorient, his iconic side-on run-up now a regular sight. The former left goalkeeper Eric Durand utterly crestfallen.
A clash with Troyes just over a month later saw the birth of another Ronaldinho feature we would grow to love. After already finding the goal once, the Brazilian set off on a rampaging run from inside his own half, evading the dive of one desperate defender as he did. The defender’s terrified team-mates continued to back off, allowing Ronaldinho to poke home brilliantly with his right foot. Cue the shaka celebration. The first of many.The 2002-03 season did not bring a lot more consistency on the goalscoring front for the new World Cup winner, his relationship with his manager continuing to worsen as well.
The big move As Ronaldinho was making a mockery of French defenders, newly elected Barcelona president Joan Laporta pondered how to improve his club. There was a simple answer.
Manchester United were also eager to bring the hypnotic attacker to Old Trafford, so PSG, who could only muster an 11th place finish in the previous campaign, never stood a chance.Despite being spotted in London clubs on multiple occasions, something that perhaps concerned Sir Alex Ferguson, Dinho plumped for the Camp Nou.And so to Catalonia he went, leaving a scene in Paris of pissed off managers, pissed off team-mates but thousands of adoring fans. With him, he took the status of football’s future king. Football’s future O Rei.
This story was culled from Planet Football
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