Ronaldinho, Ulysses, and C. Ronaldo

OK, maybe two successive BP posts about Ronaldinho seems a bit much, when he hasn’t had a real claim on Best Player status for a few years now… but for me, he’s been the most exciting footballer of his generation; and as this expected move back to Brazil moves him closer to the end of his career, I already can’t help missing him on the world stage.

Superscout says Ronaldinho changed the game and brought unprecendented artistry and joy to football. All this is true. Ronaldinho’s balletic grace, quickness, and willingness to try new and ridiculously unorthodox moves made watching him a different experience than watching anyone else – Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Zidane, and Messi included.

I believe only George Best in his day and Cristiano Ronaldo in this era have come close to being as beautiful and expressive as Ronaldinho. As you watch the mesmerizing nimer66 video above, it’s easy to see the similarities between Ronaldinho and Ronaldo: the foot speed, the shooting power from distance and skill with free kicks, the ability to completely wrong-foot defenders in groups, the artistry holding sway even when something more straight-ahead and practical would have been more effective.

Not that Ronaldinho and Ronaldo have not been effective – both have won FIFA World Player of the Year honours, Ronaldinho twice. But if you’re a person who sometimes chooses aesthetics over efficiency, who prefers the artist to the artisan, you can’t help loving Ronaldinho and what he has brought to top-level pro sports. We’ve heard how he’s gradually lost fitness over the past few years, staying out late DJing and enjoying life as a bon vivant in Barcelona and Milan. But if these stories are true, is this necessarily a bad thing? It’s that dancer’s aesthetic, that irreverence and sense of fun that helped make Ronaldinho such a unique talent on the field. Why wouldn’t this spirit find a natural outlet after hours (or onstage with 50-Cent)? Ronaldinho himself is a good drummer and great dancer… and as Superscout implies, there won’t be much outlet for this kind of thing in the middle of an English Premiership winter.

Ronaldinho returning to Brazil to finish his days – and maybe even to Gremio, where it all began – smacks a little of the story of Ulysses, sailing back to Ithaka after all those adventures abroad. Seems right somehow; a fitting end. And who knows: if the Brazilian national squad decides to return to its own joga bonito after failed experiments with a more, er, effective way of playing, we may see R. Gaucho on the world stage once more…

Come, my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world. Though much is taken, much abides; and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are...

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