Our new “The Artists” collection will be launched on 15th February celebrating the exceptional skill and contribution of some of the greatest exponents of the beautiful game. There are 10 players honoured in this initial range and over the next few days our blogs will share some magical moments of artistry from each one of them.
Today we feature Ronaldinho
1 – v Chelsea, Champions League last 16, March 2005
‘Petr Cech... Petr Cech! Never. Moved.’ Clive Tyldesley.
This was a proper Champions League match between two well-matched sides who produced such great attacking football that the scoreline read 3-2 after just 38 minutes. It was predictably Ronaldinho who provided the greatest moment of the half however.
Chelsea had suffered a controversial 2-1 defeat in Barcelona. The Blues had taken the lead through a Juliano Belletti own goal before Drogba was harshly sent off and the Catalan side came back with two second-half goals.
At Stamford Bridge however Chelsea had turned it around. Three quick goals from Eider Gudjohnsen, Frank Lampard and Damien Duff had put Chelsea 4-2 up on aggregate after just 20 minutes. Ronaldinho halved the deficit with a penalty 8 minutes later, and levelled up the tie in sublime fashion with half time approaching.
A long, and as is often the case, hopeful ball was floated towards the Chelsea penalty area for John Terry to head clear. His effort however only went as far as Iniesta, who neatly laid the ball off to Ronaldinho before darting into the box.
Ronaldinho ignored Iniesta, in fact ignored the close presence of a Chelsea defence who would only concede 15 goals in 38 league games that season. He planted his toe into the ground, turned it right and left, before outrageously toe-poking the ball past Ricardo Carvalho, Petr Cech and into the net to level the tie on aggregate.
Relive It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9O3otJu2FWE
2 – v Sevilla, La Liga, September 2003
It takes something special to upstage the fact that this game kicked off at 00:05.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta was keen for the game to be moved back to Tuesday instead of Wednesday for fear his side would be left short due to international week. With this request refused, he used his power as president of the home club (it was the prerogative of the home side’s president to choose the kick-off time) to move the game as far back on Wednesday as he could; hence 00:05.
The goal itself handsomely rewarded the 80,000 fans who turned up. With the score at 1-0 to Sevilla, courtesy of Jose Antonio Reyes (who would shortly move to Arsenal) Ronaldinho was thrown the ball by the Barcelona ‘keeper, and found himself with space in which to run. He cut in from the left twice, beating Jose Luis Marti and Francisco Casquero with a masterclass in the art of ‘dropping the shoulder’ to move 30 yards from goal.
At this point it is important to remember that this game was Ronaldinho’s league debut for Barcelona. At around 01:30 the Brazilian simply smashed the ball in off the crossbar to equalise and announce his arrival in Spain. The best, almost unbelievably, was yet to come.
Relive It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELMMDXMVGp4
3 – v Real Madrid, La Liga, November 2005
What many often forget about Ronaldinho, for all the excellent ball control and trickery, is the speed of the man. Step two years into the future from that magical midnight match against Sevilla and the devastating effectiveness of Ronaldinho’s speed and skill are all too plain to see.
Speed of thought, speed of feet.
Samuel Eto’o had already put the Catalan club 1-0 up, but it was Ronaldinho’s brace which caught the eye. The Brazilian picked the ball up on the halfway line and made a beeline for future Champions League and World Cup-winner Sergio Ramos. The young Spain defender’s attempted tackle would most likely have looked Bobby Moore-esque if tried upon any other opponent, but Ronaldinho had already flicked the ball away from him before Ramos had hit the floor.
Ronaldinho turned inside Ivan Helguera as if he were a lamp post in the street, and whipped the ball past Iker Casillas, who stretched out a hand for the sake of tradition.
His second goal came at the expense of Ramos again, who this time Ronaldinho simply beat for speed down the Spaniard’s right hand side before switching his body shape to finish across Casillas. The performance was so magical it earned applause from the horrified Real Madrid fans inside the Bernabeu.
Relive It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ffj4p288q80