Words: Owen Blackhurst
Image: Offside Sports Photography
Ronaldinho was one of those players who was so good at football that he actually made it funny.
And yeah sometimes you see see Davids nutmeg Ben Shepherd in exhibition games or whatever and you think "Ha, he's good at football", but it's extremely rare that you see someone who can do it quite so consistently on the biggest stage as Ronaldinho.
He turned the pitch into a circus, defenders—actual professional footballers—into humbled children, forced to look on as someone made a mockery of their chosen careers. It was rare that his victims ever reacted with anger. All they could do was look sheepishly at their own legs and wonder "What just happened?"
Here are ten times that Ronaldinho stole the show and took the absolute piss.
BARCELONA V OSASUNA (2005)
There are two constants of Sky Sports La Liga coverage. One is that a former Spanish player who turned out for a middling Premier League team without much success will be sat in a studio, looking uncomfortable, as half a glass of cheap Rioja and some crap jamón oxidize in front of him. The other is that Osasuna will get their pants pulled down by Barça. On this occasion, the ball gets chipped into Ronnie who, rather than turn to face goal, just flexes his shoulders and splits the defence with a slide rule pass off his back that leaves Ludovic Giuly with a simple tap-in. Nurse, the screens please. There’s been an atrocity.
DELHI V KERALA (2017)
You’re a part-time goalkeeper for Bengaluru, and nobody is here to see you. Paul Scholes is on your team, and he keeps telling you to be like a starfish. It’s hot, confusing, what is this fucking starfish? The ball breaks to the striker who has his back to goal. This is your moment. This is your time. They will write songs about this. You steam out of goal, to the halfway line, ready to clatter the man in the red headband who is pissing sweat and has barely moved. He definitely hasn’t seen you. Oh. Oh dear. Oh dearie, dearie, me. He’s done something with his feet and the ball has gone through your legs and he’s scored and nobody is singing your song. Paul Scholes winces. Paul Scholes sucks air through his teeth and looks at the floor. Paul Scholes mouths ‘starfish’.
ATLÉTICO MINEIRO V SÃO PAULO (2013)
The ball is miles down the other end of the field, and our mate strolls over to the keeper for a sip of his water. Play continues. They have a bit of a chat. Ron does a slow walk back because he’s only been for a drink and there is definitely nothing to see here. Fuck. Fuuucccckk. Mineiro have got a throw-in, and he’s 10 yards offside, but he can’t be offside from a throw-in, can he? You know what happens. You know he sets up Jô. You know he essentially changes the goalkeeper as a human being in the process. What a bastard. What an absolutely brilliant bastard.
BARÇA V GETAFE (2005)
If this was a move on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, it would be called a 720 stale fish sex change crooked grind mega ollie yeehaw front flip. Or something. It’s not that. It’s better because skateboarding actually doesn’t matter. It’s a lovely leaping no-look back-heel with a bit of a flourish, and our man looks like a smiling ballerina. Mega.
ATLÉTICO SAN LUIS V QUERÉTARO (2015)
Performs a Jedi mind trick here and makes the keeper drop the ball. It’s mad.
BRAZIL V HAITI (2004)
Ever heard the sounds a pod of seals make when a hungry Great White turns up looking to do a bit of damage? It’s distressing. That’s why there’s no sound on this clip of Ronnie taking out an entire defence with a double drag back before leaving the keeper on his arse. The screams. The broken hearts. The blood cascading into the turf. David Attenborough would be in his element.
BARCELONA V VILLARREAL (2006)
Essentially a fast and glorious teenage wank of a goal. The timing of the run gets you fully tumescent, the chest control has you clenching your arse in defiance, and the overhead kick results in you hitting the fucking ceiling. You light a fag, smoke half, reach for the Kleenex and press play again. You won’t be 16 forever...
GRÊMIO YOUTH V CASCAVEL YOUTH (1996)
The first three defenders know the script. Do not get near him. Do not engage. Stand in a block and hope he just runs out of steam. Then old Braveheart at right back thinks he can make a name for himself and has a go. You feel sorry for him before it happens. Ron gives him a sniff. Takes a touch miles away from him that seemingly makes a shot impossible. Then he chips him, his mates, and the keeper from a silly angle. That right back is walking home. It’s his own fault. He won’t get to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on the coach.
BARCELONA V REAL BETIS (2004)
You play for Betis, and you’ve had quite the night. He’s done your head in, to be honest. Nearly time for it to end though. Nearly time for bed. The whistle will go soon, surely? The ball is played into him, and you reckon he probably can’t be arsed. He’ll let it go. That’s what they’ve said. He’s already thinking about Las Ramblas. About the chicas. But he flicks it over your head. Then your mate’s. So you both go in with menace, and he catches it on his chest and manipulates it away from you with a flick of his right pec. The crowd are waving hankies. You just want to take one. Hopefully, it’s covered in chloroform. This isn’t football anymore. This isn’t in the script. This is crap. Bastardo.
REAL MADRID LEGENDS V BARÇA LEGENDS (2017)
When it all comes down to it, Ronaldinho gonna Ronaldinho. Especially against Los Blancos. Spends the whole game sweating, walking about, and trying no look everything. Back-heels, throw-ins, corners, the lot. Most of them are crap. His timing is off. Totally shot. Beirut is really warm, and he’s almost certainly been on the sauce on the plane over. Then he gets one right, and it's his whole career boiled into a moment. A disgusting 30-yard chip at the heart of the defence that sails between them on a magic carpet and leaves the striker with an easy one. He walks off smiling. Of course he bloody does...