Is Ronaldinho the most overrated footballer of all time?
With five Ballon d’Or apiece, combined eight Champions League winners’ medals and over one thousand goals between them, Messi and Ronaldo have redefined the meaning of ‘playing football’ in the modern era.
Consequently, their exploits have attracted comparisons with the all-time greats of the beautiful game. One of those exceptional players whose careers have been measured against Messi’s and Ronaldo’s is none other than Ronaldinho.
The man who divides opinion
At his peak, Ronaldinho was a joy to watch. Graceful, strong, and always wearing a smile on his face, Ronaldinho was the epitome of elegance on the pitch, according to his admirers. Conversely, Ronaldinho’s critics believe that with all his obvious talents, he should have done more for his team and achieved more for himself, especially regarding goals and assists.
In fact, they’ve gone on to say that he doesn’t warrant the praise he receives for his style of play and overall footballing endeavours. Simply put, the detractors insist Ronaldinho is overrated.
Ronaldinho: greater than the greats
Claiming Ronaldinho is overrated couldn’t be further from the truth. His feats (which shall be discussed soon enough) put him on par with the greatest of all time and ranks him above even the likes of Ronaldo De Lima, Thierry Henry, Gianluigi Buffon, Andres Iniesta, Hernandez Xavi, Luis Figo, Paolo Maldini, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sure, when Ronaldinho was playing, he didn’t score the same number of goals as Samuel Eto’o, Filippo Inzaghi, Andriy Shevchenko and neither did he have the same amount of assists as the likes of Cesc Fabregas, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, etc. But what Ronaldinho did achieve makes him untouchable by all of the players mentioned above.
When a star was born
Although Ronaldinho had initially won the golden ball at the U17 level and also picked up both the golden ball and the golden shoe at the 1999 Confederations Cup in Mexico, it was only three years later that the world noticed him.
Somewhat subdued in his first match (Brazil versus Turkey), Ronaldinho showed glimpses of what opposition defenders would later come to dread by giving the Chinese defence a torrid time in his second outing. But not until the quarterfinals did Ronaldinho demonstrate his real class.
When Ronaldinho nutmegged Paul Scholes in the first half, it seemed like a one-time trick. However, Ronaldinho erased that thought from everyone’s mind by picking up the ball from the halfway line, running at the English defence, dribbling past Paul Scholes and Ashley Cole before teeing up Rivaldo who buried the ball into the bottom left corner past David Seaman.
As if the assist wasn’t enough, Ronaldinho won the match for Brazil by lobbing Seaman from a freekick over thirty yards out. Unfortunately, Ronaldinho didn’t complete the game as the referee adjudged him to have stamped on Danny Mills’s shin and issued a red card to that effect, meaning Ronaldinho had to miss the semifinal against Turkey. Fortunately for Ronaldinho, his country scraped through to the final in his absence.
Felipe Scolari trusted Ronaldinho enough to put him straight back into his eleven as soon as he served his mandatory one-match ban. In a tactical move, Scolari switched Ronaldinho from the left into the middle.
It was in the middle of the park that Ronaldinho shone because he gave Dietmar Hamann and Torsten Frings a proper hiding and set up two gilt-edged chances which Ronaldo and Kleberson spurned.
His performance at the tournament made Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester United have a three-way tussle for his signature. In the end, in 2003, Barcelona got him, Madrid got Beckham, while United signed Kleberson.
The magician who restored Barcelona’s glory
It wasn’t a coincidence that the signing of Ronaldinho culminated in an era of dominance for Barcelona. Before Ronaldinho’s arrival, Barcelona hadn’t won the league title in four years (last won in 1999) and the Champions League in ten years (last won in 1992).
Although success wasn’t immediate, Ronaldinho guided Barcelona to back-to-back league titles (04/05 and 05/06 seasons) and their first Champions League trophy in fourteen years (2006).
Ronaldinho’s Biggest Achievements
At 22 years, he won the world cup (a feat that has eluded the likes of Messi and C.Ronaldo).
He won the FIFA Best Player of the Year Award twice (something Henry and Maldini don’t have in their trophy cabinet).
He won the UEFA Champions League (not even the great Ronaldo de Lima could win it in his prime).
In 2005, he won the Ballon d’Or.
The only man in recent memory who was given a standing ovation by the opposition in a Clasico match.
Ronaldinho might not have racked up tonnes of goals and an unfathomable number of assists, but his flair, close control, range of passing, and unique dribbling skills made him one of the very best the world has ever seen. Furthermore, if he were overrated, many players (including Raheem Sterling) wouldn’t have tried to model their game on his style.
Above all, for the purists (those who detest ‘bus parking’), Ronaldinho was a phenomenon. In fact, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest footballers of all time. Therefore, calling him ‘overrated’ is a footballing sacrilege.