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Ronaldinho illuminated European soccer throughout 5 years with Barcelona from 2003

Elasticos, rabonas, no-glance passes and that trademark toothy grin. At his peak, Ronaldinho was once irresistible.

All around the 2000s, the Brazilian conquered the soccer world with the kind of play YouTube was once made for. And over the past decade he has received – and lost – bigger than most avid gamers manage of their entire occupation.

After a premature 2011 exit from AC Milan frail 30, he eclipsed Neymar within the youthful man’s like backyard, received a ancient Copa Libertadores and looked in Arab fact presentations and Russian grocery store adverts. There was once even a Hollywood film with Jean-Claude van Damme.

This year, he lost his freedom, spending his 40th birthday locked in a Paraguayan penal advanced.

Encourage in January 2011, when Ronaldinho rotated his crimson-and-gloomy stripes 90 levels by switching Milan for Flamengo, his Italian membership’s coach Massimiliano Allegri known as the option „a existence replacement“.

In other words: ’non-footballing reasons‘. As was once the case throughout two years at Paris St-Germain, his partying had compelled a parting of ways. Performances had been missing and persistence ran out.

The approach to attain dwelling so early in his occupation very a lot bowled over Brazil crew-mate Rivaldo, who received the World Cup alongside him in 2002.

„He could perchance well well like persevered a small bit longer in Europe, but it was once a private option,“ Rivaldo tells BBC Sport. „He felt he’d already written his fable there, so wanted to attain abet and invent accepted, shut to family and friends.“

In existence, as in soccer, Ronaldinho has by no procedure strayed too removed from the spotlight. Nonetheless the scenario he faces now’s indispensable more necessary than the relaxation that came earlier than.

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Born Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, Ronaldinho grew up in Vila Nova, a ramshackle neighbourhood within the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. His mom Miguelina sold cosmetics door-to-door, while father Joao worked nights within the automotive park of local aspect Gremio. When older brother Roberto Assis signed legit terms with them frail 17, the membership supplied a luxurious villa. Football, and particularly Gremio, lifted the family out of poverty.

Ronaldinho, requested in 2015 who he idolised when growing up, urged FourFourTwo: „My brother Assis, Rivelino, Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Diego Maradona.“

That identical villa was once the surroundings for a tragedy that would form his existence and bring the brothers even closer together.

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Ronaldinho, pictured here in February 2000 with Brazil’s Under-23 squad, then unexcited a Gremio player

When Ronaldinho was once eight, his dad suffered coronary heart concerns within the swimming pool. He died two days later. Assis broke the data to his brother and assumed a father-pick role.

Assis would level to pleasure – and glimpses of his future role as Ronaldinho’s agent – by responding to private praise with: „My brother’s even better.“ The hype grew when, frail 13, the scrawny child who practised dribbling in opposition to his canines Bala and Bombom, scored 23 targets in a college match.

Within four years Ronaldinho had helped Brazil own the Under-17 World Cup, and by 19 produced one of essentially the most attention-grabbing performances of his fledgling occupation to abet Gremio beat competitors Internacional within the Narrate Championship closing. „I cherish Gremio so indispensable… I’d play for free,“ he talked about after the match. „What issues is the cherish of the shirt.“

Sooner than his 21st birthday, he performed within the abet of supreme Romario as high scorer within the nation’s high division and attracted a £40m say from Leeds United. His membership answered by erecting a banner originate air Estadio Olimpico: „We don’t sell our most efficient avid gamers. Originate no longer you dare advise.“

Yet along with his contract running down and Gremio unable to attain an agreement, a sale was once no longer required. In February 2001, with Assis acting as intermediary, he signed a pre-contract with Paris St-Germain, incensing Gremio supporters.

The person is named O Bruxo (The Wizard) began to earn spectators across the globe. In 2002 he helped Brazil own the World Cup. A year later he swapped Paris for Barcelona, from the do he would illuminate the European game. He received the Champions League and two league titles throughout 5 years with the Spanish membership, while acting as mentor to Lionel Messi.

By the level Ronaldinho returned to Brazil in 2011, by strategy of two and a half of seasons at Milan, Gremio’s board had forgiven him – although the fans had no longer. No matter all the pieces that came earlier than, he was once abet to plan amends. Or no longer no longer up to, that is the procedure it seemed.

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Ronaldinho, pictured within the team at a Flamengo match in January 2011, shortly after leaving AC Milan

He had in overall spoken of returning to his boyhood membership, so president Paulo Odone struck a deal along with his brother Assis. Gremio organised an unveiling at the stadium, whole with navy police and a helicopter, but Ronaldinho by no procedure confirmed.

When Odone stumbled on the player was once as a replacement becoming a member of Flamengo, he blamed Assis for reneging on his word. „There had been seven versions of the contract requested by Assis,“ he talked about, crying. „I don’t know how to barter cherish that. We had been very patient, but there could be a restrict.“

While Odone wept, Ronaldinho urged 20,000 raucous fans originate air Flamengo’s HQ he was once no longer wanting for a closing dance but was once in Rio to own. „Many attain abet to Brazil supreme to shut out their careers. I favor to opt the title of Flamengo as excessive as attainable, profitable as many titles as attainable, and repaying these fans‘ cherish,“ he talked about.

Gremio fans had been vivid. When Flamengo visited 10 months later, a bathe of coins and knives welcomed him. Hand-painted tombstones branding him ‚Judas‘ and ‚Mercenario‘ crammed the stands, while spectators waved unsuitable money carrying his face and the words ‚Without morals, it is doubtless you’ll well well perchance perchance be worthless‘.

No matter shedding 4-2, Ronaldinho was once in no mood for pacification. Requested in regards to the menacing ambiance, the one that once talked about „if there could be one membership I don’t favor to fight with, or no longer it is Gremio“ shot abet: „For these venerable to a Flamengo crowd, this is never if truth be told indispensable noise.“

The defeat was once no anomaly. Ronaldinho made more headlines off the sphere than on it at Flamengo, other than an unforgettable 2011 match at Neymar’s Santos when, along with his aspect trailing 3-0, he scored a hat-trick and claimed two assists in a 5-4 own. When photography of Ronaldinho surrounded by wine glasses and females proliferated, a hotline was once created so fans could perchance well well alert the membership if their captain was once noticed on a night out.

Jose Carlos Peruano, an advisor to Flamengo, created ‚Dial Buckteeth‘ and says the phone by no procedure stopped ringing, even supposing he admits the majority of calls had been pranks.

„Ronaldinho had the face of Flamengo, but he wasn’t committed – too indispensable nightlife and alcohol,“ Peruano says. „He was but again of a celebration animal than a footballer.“

When Flamengo’s administrative concerns resulted in wage delays, Assis terminated his brother’s contract and sued the membership for £14m. The four-year deal had lasted 16 months. Four days later, as fans burned his effigy, a media helicopter noticed a smartly-identified pick coaching with Atletico Mineiro.

hollywood Newspaper coverage of Ronaldinho's departure from Flamengo
Newspaper coverage of Ronaldinho’s departure from Flamengo in 2012

In a be aware that things had been about to alternate, Ronaldinho took a pay minimize and swapped his number 10 shirt for 49 – the year his mom was once born. He requested there be no wide unveiling. „It is a brand original chapter,“ he urged journalists in June 2012. „When we derive plenty of criticism, we conclude up wanting to flip things around. I attain here with that desire.“

This time, he would let his soccer attain the talking.

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Atletico coach Cuca was once attempting to be aware mature Lyon midfielder Juninho Pernambucano when he heard Ronaldinho was once a free agent. Confident he could perchance well well derive essentially the most efficient out of the 32-year-venerable, he deployed him in a central role. The added accountability produced results.

The membership had performed four parts off relegation in 2011, but Ronaldinho straight led his original crew to a 2d-predicament invent, helping them qualify for the Copa Libertadores for the predominant time in 13 years. He received the Bola de Ouro as most efficient player within the league.

Sports actions creator Victor Martins lined Ronaldinho’s time in Belo Horizonte for O Tempo. He says weekends unexcited fascinating slack-night gatherings for BBQ, tune, beer, and tequila, but the player’s mentality was once diverse.

„There are two key reasons he stumbled on plan at Atletico,“ says Martins. „First, he left Flamengo hurting and wanting to level to the matter was once them, no longer him. Secondly, when his mom was once diagnosed with most cancers, fans made particular banners for her and it touched him so indispensable he cried.

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Ronaldinho and Neymar, then frail 20, pictured after an October 2012 meeting between Santos and Atletico Mineiro

„That toughen was once essential and gave him the fireplace in his belly to succeed. He talked about he’d supreme leave once they had been champions.“

Playing alongside recent Everton winger Bernard and mature Manchester City striker Jo, Ronaldinho scored four and assisted seven as Atletico reached the Libertadores closing for the predominant time within the membership’s history.

„It be cherish playing chess with somebody who can build you in checkmate in three moves,“ Jo urged Brazilian TV in 2016. „In actuality, he urged me if he could perchance well well no longer build me thru on design three times per game, he’d safe me a crate of beer.“

Jo performed high scorer throughout the Libertadores campaign, but Atletico went into the 2d leg of the closing trailing 2-0 to Paraguay’s Olimpia. They equalised with three minutes left and compelled penalties. Ronaldinho, scheduled to opt his aspect’s closing order-kick, was once spared the activity as his aspect triumphed 4-3 and secured Atletico a first main title since 1971.

„I’m chuffed he did no longer favor to hit one because he urged me afterwards he was once going to attain a Panenka,“ talked about Cuca within the commemorative documentary In opposition to The Wind. „I’d’ve had a coronary heart attack.“

The victory build Ronaldinho in a class by himself: the correct footballer in history to own the World Cup, Champions League, World Player of the one year, Ballon d’Or and Copa Libertadores.

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Atletico Mineiro’s 2013 victory secured the membership’s first Copa Libertadores title

„It be no longer something we ever talked about,“ says Rivaldo, who received four of the 5 titles throughout his 24-year occupation. „He was once so lucky to be a Libertadores champion and even supposing I did no longer own that one, I’m entirely happy he did because it was once something wanted for his occupation.“

Three hundred and sixty five days later, in July 2014, straight after profitable South The United States’s an identical of the Remarkable Cup, Ronaldinho requested Atletico to let him leave. His cycle was once over. A original trip awaited, in Mexico.

Nonetheless the wind-down predicted the day he left Milan was once if truth be told about to open.

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„Each and every Friday he would invent a game, opt a non-public airplane and go to Cancun or Playa del Carmen,“ Patricio Rubio, who carried out alongside Ronaldinho at Liga MX aspect Queretaro, urged Chilean TV. „He’d supreme return on the Tuesday, by no procedure coaching on Mondays. He was once a wide title.“

Ronaldinho’s Mexican experiment lasted supreme 9 months and, for the predominant time in his occupation, ended with out a trophy.

A equally fruitless spell abet in Brazil at Fluminense adopted and, bothered by boos, he voluntarily terminated his contract in September 2015, two months into an 18-month deal. „There was once no scarcity of offers, but he decided he does no longer favor to play from now on,“ Assis later talked about.

Ronaldinho supreme officially retired three years later, frail 37 in January 2018. Yet unexcited these offers appear to preserve coming.

In June he was once linked to Gimnasia, the Argentinian membership the do Maradona is supervisor. And this no matter being frail 40 and below dwelling arrest in Paraguay. The Argentine story previously talked about his friend’s „supreme error is being an idol“, adding: „I could toughen him till demise.“

For these that adopted his playing occupation, Ronaldinho’s slack descent from pedestal to penal advanced has been difficult to love a examine. He constantly exuded pleasure on the sphere, so that you would possibly want to perhaps examine this most accepted regrettable episode is saddening. Yet it is no longer aesthetic – the clues had been there this could perhaps happen. His option-making with a pen was once by no procedure as astute as with a ball.

In 2011, his tackle Coca-Cola was once cancelled after they watched him ingesting Pepsi throughout a data convention. A number of years later, he was once regarding neither when he recorded songs equivalent to ‚Vamos Beber‘ (Let’s Drink) and ‚Saideira‘ (One For The Motorway). He abandoned India’s Premier Futsal League supreme two suits in after being named ambassador for the 2016 Paralympic Video games.

Lately, these flippant choices like taken a more ominous flip. In 2018, he and Assis got a £2m aesthetic for building a 70-metre pier in an environmental protection space with out permission. They refused to pay, so authorities seized 57 properties and the brothers‘ passports, returning the documents supreme after reaching a monetary agreement. The following year, an ex-fiancee filed a lawsuit for a share of his fortune.

A month earlier than his arrest in March, he was once named in a £50m civil lawsuit regarding 18k Ronaldinho, a monetary pyramid plan nice looking cryptocurrencies. The mature player’s legal professionals declare he is fascinating.

Unperturbed, he soon after tweeted toughen for LBLV, an funding agency that had its running licence suspended the old year.

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Ronaldinho arriving at Asuncion’s Justice Palace to testify in March this year

And then came data from Paraguay of his arrest alongside Assis for possession of counterfeit passports. Detained for 32 days at a excessive-security penal advanced on the periphery of the capital Asuncion, the pair paid $1.6m bail and had been transferred to the appealing Palmaroga Resort. They remain there while investigations continue into a seemingly money laundering network.

„We had been entirely very a lot bowled over to uncover the documents had been no longer correct,“ Ronaldinho urged Paraguayan newspaper ABC. „All my existence I if truth be told like tried to be as legit as attainable and bring pleasure to folk with my soccer. We hope we can derive out of this scenario as soon as attainable.“

Ronaldinho’s existence in penal advanced fascinating sharing a soar with a depraved mature Paraguayan FA president, taking selfies with security guards and making video calls alongside a mature policeman jailed for conserving drug traffickers. Local press also excitedly reported a penal advanced-yard match ended 11-2, with the Brazilian scoring 5 targets, offering six assists and profitable a 16kg suckling pig.

Since switching his sparse penal advanced cell for a presidential suite with jacuzzi and wi-fi, existence has been more isolated.

The brothers are the sole company, thanks to the pandemic, and Ronaldinho’s supreme ask was once a soccer with space to play. „We space up a room, about 30 metres by 15, for him to practise his juggling abilities,“ resort supervisor Emilio Yegros urged Agence France-Press. „He constantly has a smile, cherish his brother.“

Yet while the toothy grin could perchance well well moreover merely unexcited be there, this is never any laughing matter. Ronaldinho spent a occupation picking holes in defences, now he wants a watertight one to plan particular that he avoids up to 5 years within the abet of bars.

Prosecutors like till 6 September to originate their investigations.

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