SAO PAULO: Ronaldinho, “the ever-smiling magician” of Barcelona, as described by his former club, has ended his professional career.
Roberto Assis, the brother and agent of the 2005 Ballon d’Or winner, announced on Tuesday that the 37-year-old wants to play a series of farewell matches from August and then focus on his already busy life off the pitch.
Ronaldinho played his last professional match in 2015 for Brazilian club Fluminense.
“He’s stopped. It’s over,” Assis told the Rio de Janeiro newspaper O Globo. “We’re going to do something pretty big, something cool, after the World Cup in Russia, probably in August. We’ll do several events in Brazil, Europe and Asia, and of course, we’re watching a game with the Brazilian team.”
Last July, Ronaldinho said on the sidelines of a friendly in Chechnya that was he was “too old” to return to action. He repeated that to a Brazilian TV in November, but did not rule out reconsidering.
Ronaldinho’s decorated career also includes one World Cup title (2002), one Champions League victory (2006) and two La Liga titles with Barca, and two FIFA world player of the year awards (2004 and 2005).
He played 101 matches and scored 35 goals for Brazil from 1997 to 2013.
“We pay tribute to this ace that shone using the yellow shirt,” Brazil’s football confederation posted on Twitter. “Thanks for all the magic, Ronaldinho.”
At the 2002 World Cup, Ronaldinho played second fiddle to midfielder Rivaldo and striker Ronaldo, but he was instrumental in the 2-1 quarter-final victory over England, with an assist and scoring a remarkable free kick goal from long range.
Four years later, with Brazil as heavy favorites for the title and Ronaldinho considered the best player in the world, he failed to deliver. Brazil were knocked out in the quarter-finals by France.
Ronaldinho, who will be 38 in March, began his career at Gremio and played for seven other clubs, including Paris St Germain, AC Milan, Queretaro and Brazilian sides Flamengo, Atletico Mineiro and Fluminense.
But it was at Barca between 2003 and 2008 where he spent his glory years, turning in some of the greatest performances ever seen by the storied Spanish club, perhaps most memorably in a 3-0 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in 2005.
His former club paid tribute to the Brazilian star, tweeting: “Camp Nou’s ever-smiling magician. Thanks for everything!”
He spent three more seasons in Europe with Milan between 2008 and 2011 and won the scudetto in 2011.
AC Milan also praised Ronaldinho. “The man who enchanted San Siro and every football fan,” the Italian club said in a Twitter post. “Ronaldinho retires after illuminating pitches all over the world with his magic.”
Ronaldinho then returned to Brazil, where he played with Flamengo and Atletico Mineiro and took the latter to their first Copa Libertadores title in 2013.
He never again reached the heights he scaled at Barca for prolonged periods, though he remained a captivating presence, known for his no-look passes, superb free kicks and free-wheeling style that typified the way Brazilians play the game.
A season in Mexico with Queretaro was followed by his return to Brazil and Fluminense, for whom he played seven times before cutting short his contract.
“In football there is not much to explain,” Ronaldinho recently said in an interview with Brazilian TV. “Either you’re there or you’re not. I want to be remembered for the time I was there.”
Courtesy-Dawn, January 18th, 2018