Football, by its very nature, is a game of “buts” and “what ifs”. From questionable penalty decisions to last day relegations, it is often the twists of fate that define seasons and careers. However, the cruelest occurrence of all is surely when those on the brink of superstardom or having achieved superstardom have their progress placed in jeopardy due to injury.Countless tales of legends dying are too often consigned to history as a result, and even those players who battle through to overcome such problems are often a shadow of what their natural ability would allow if they had been a little luckier in avoiding a tweak or a tear.With the promotion of youth having come under the spotlight in recent years following the seamless integration of emerging talent into the all-conquering Barcelona side of Pep Guardiola, the pressure on youngsters is now greater than ever and, somewhat inevitably, so is the strain on their developing bodies.Following an extensive study, we have compiled a list of five stars of the game whose careers suffered due to chronic injury problems, and speculate how else their careers might have ended had they avoided the injuries.
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Clubs: Grêmio, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, AC Milan, Flamengo, Atletico Mineiro, Querétaro, Fluminense.
Injury: Muscular, Hamstring.
Age at decline: 28
Age at retirement: N/A
Ronaldinho Gaúcho, popularly known as Ronaldinho was born on 21st March, 1980. He has been a Brazilian footballing legend whose main playing position was as an attacking midfielder or sometimes forward. He won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2004 and 2005. Renowned for his technique, tricks, dribbling, overhead kicks, no-look passes and free kicks, Ronaldinho is regarded to be one of the best players of his generation.
Ronaldinho has played 97 matches and scored 33 goals for the Brazil. He was a part of the 2002 World Cup winning team in Korea/Japan, starring alongside Ronaldo and Rivaldo in an attacking trio, and was named in the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team.
With Barcelona, he won the La Liga twice, the UEFA Champions League in 2006, and accumulated numerous individual awards, including the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005 and the Ballon d’Or in 2005. Ronaldinho was named in the FIFA 100, a list of the world's greatest living players compiled by Pele, and to the FIFPro World XI from 2005–2007.
But the legend of Ronaldinho slowly and steadily went on a decline due to the chronic injuries he faced since he quit Barcelona and went to Milan in 2008. After a good start to the season, Ronaldinho struggled with fitness, and was often played from the bench to end a disappointing first season for Milan. A perceived lack of dedication in training and a lifestyle of late night partying not befitting of an athlete saw him receive criticism, with Carlo Ancelotti, his coach at Milan in his first season in Italy, commenting, "The decline of Ronaldinho hasn't surprised me. His physical condition has always been very precarious. His talent though has never been in question."
After three dreadful years in Milan, Ronaldinho’s career took a dip. He was no longer the legendary Brazilian midfielder everyone knew him to be. However, Ronaldinho led Atlético Mineiro to a good 2012 season, in which the club finished 2nd in the 2012 Brasileirao and qualified for the 2013 Copa Libertadores. Ronaldinho won the Brazilian Golden Ball award for his performances in league matches in 2012.
The following year Ronaldinho helped Atlético to win Campeonato Mineiro and led his club to its first ever title of the Copa Libertadores. Ronaldinho scored four goals and assisted on seven occasions during Atletico's dramatic title run. Even though Ronaldinho had been injured for a bigger part of the second half of the season, he was still voted the 2013 South American Footballer of the Year. He has since been playing for various sides but he is no longer the legend he once was.