By James Dall. Last Updated: 06/08/08 10:57am
Ronnie: Olympic showcase
There was a time, not too long ago really, when Ronaldinho's name would be preceded or succeeded by a lengthy list of superlatives.
Ronaldinho used to roll so sweetly off the tongue, however, of late, things have turned a little sour for the man from Porte Alegre, Brazil.
To doubt Ronaldo de Assis Moreira's class, which is of course permanent, would be downright foolish. The two-time Fifa World Player of the Year was and still is a visionary.
Pele once said: "There's no point in comparing Ronaldinho and Maradona. I think Ronaldinho is better than Maradona."
Words of grandeur, indeed, but recently the knives have been out for the man with bewitching feet. A ropey couple of years, with his personal life called into question, have seen critics wriggle from the woodwork.
But now, with a move to Italy sealed, Ronaldinho has a chance to once more shake the footballing world with his own unique flick-flack stomp when he represents his country at the Olympics.
Ronaldinho began his professional career back in 1998 with Brazilian side Gremio. Unsurprisingly, it took little time for Europe to come calling, and Paris Saint Germain landed his talents three years later.
His time at Parc des Princes was a mixed affair. France's capital, dripped in temptation, proved a distraction, with moments of brilliance on the field offset by lures of nightlife off it.
But in 2002 a lifelong dream was realised as Ronaldinho assisted Brazil in lifting the World Cup. His glory was followed a year later by another move, this time to Barcelona for a fee of £21million. His stock was growing.
His debut term at the Camp Nou past most by, but it was his second, the 2004/05 campaign, when everything seemed to fall into place as he lifted the Primera Division title, was named European Footballer of the Year, picked up the title of Fifa World Player of the Year for a second time and captained Brazil to victory at the Confederations Cup.
For Barca, 2006 held another league title and a UEFA Champions League success; however the playmaker's performances at the 2006 World Cup were met by murmurs of disapproval from some circles. His impression on the tournament was uncharacteristically flat.
Frighteningly tall peaks were met by sombre lows over the course of the next two seasons, before he was eventually told he was surplus to requirements at Barcelona by new head coach Pep Guardiola.
Rumours of a staggeringly lucrative move to Manchester City gathered pace, but it was AC Milan that landed his signature. A fresh start beckoned.
Brazil head to the 2008 Beijing Olympics looking to claim the accolade for the first in their history, and, with a Ronaldinho that has a point to prove and renewed focus in tow, the men in gold could well be a forced to be reckoned with.
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