Parisien Folklore: Ronaldinho

A brand new feature on 1970 PSG in which the website will highlight past players, matches and moments that have contributed to the short yet eventful history of Paris Saint-Germain.

Many people ask me how my affiliation with Paris Saint-Germain began. It quite simply boils down to one reason and one man alone, Ronaldinho.

As a youngster growing up I witnessed the maestros of Ronaldo and Rivaldo working in tandem in the yellow of Brazil during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. As accustomed as I was to seeing this from two marvellous individuals, I was intrigued by another Samba star joining the fray in Ronaldinho whose unique style of play was – to my amazement at the time – on an even par with the aforementioned icons. Ronaldinho was a star in the making and my curiosity on one of South America’s latest starlets got me delving in his final season with Les Parisiens in 2002/2003 before he sought pastures new in Spain.

He arrived in the French capital in 2001 from Gremio for an absolute snip, 5m. Although he signed for the club in the spring, it was not until the proceeding August until he made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Auxerre. This was due to bitter legal dispute between PSG and the player’s previous employers.

In his inaugural campaign he found himself in and out the team, blossoming more so in the latter stage of the season with a flurry of goals – accumulating nine in total. Despite his disappointment at not cementing a starting berth straight away, he endeared himself to the Parisian faithful quite quickly. He had ability to weave into little pockets of space with just a simple touch of class and it was almost mesmeric. A player with such elegance and trickery could easily unhinge an opposition’s defence with ease and the supporters could see that they had acquired something quite special.  He reminded them of another Brazilian who once adorned the blue and red in the form of Rai. A man who cemented his legacy at the club with six major honours and was pivotal in the club reaching thos dizzy heights – a man who will be a part of this new feature in the coming weeks.

Ronaldinho interchanged from the left hand side to a more central attacking role in midfield during his time at the club. Although he was effective coming in from the left-hand side onto his favoured right foot, he appeared to be more domineering through the middle – affecting the play more. This culminated in an array of spectacular goals that had fans and pundits salivating.

It was not all sweetness and nice however as he endured bitter spats with former Coach Luis Fernandez. The Spanish born Frenchman accused Ronaldinho of not being fully focused on his football and was instead distracted by the Parisian lifestyle but the young Brazilian prodigy did his utmost to prove him wrong. Inconsistency was also another flaw many perceived to be lingering in his game, not performing to his maximum as much as he should.

One tendency he did have was performing in the bigger games particularly against the likes of Olympique Marseille. Many of the PSG supporters will concur that his grandest moment came against OM in his final season at the club (2002/2003) at the Stade Velodrome. On that frenetic night in front of 60,000 fans, Ronaldinho well and truly humbled his adversaries in a near flawless performance. Jerome Leroy had given the visitors the lead with a rather fortuitous goal. Then, it was the number 10’s moment to shine, pulling the strings for much of the game he doubled the lead by capitalising on a mistake by Frank Leboeuf, sauntering his way through the middle and diligently lifting the ball over goalkeeper Vedran Runje. He then rounded off the evening with a spectacular assist for Leroy to bag his brace. With Marseille pouring forward they were done on the counter-attack, Ronaldinho getting behind their defence and rounding Runje before rolling the ball across the face of goal for Leroy to slide home. That was the club’s third Le Classique win of the season in what was a largely disappointing one, finishing 11th in Ligue 1 – the worst in 15 years.

Days after that victory, Fernandez announced he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, pointing out Ronnie’s off-field debacles in the process. He said: “Ronaldinho has not abided by the rules and the discipline of the club. He was to be sanctioned and it was what I wanted to do but the officials told me to leave him alone. It was very humiliating. I wanted to help him (Ronaldinho) out. But I can’t be blamed for what he did off the pitch. They wanted me to be his daddy and his psychiatrist”.

Yes it is true, Ronaldinho’s time at Paris Saint-Germain was far from perfect but he endeared himself to the hearts of the supporters with scenes of scintillating skill that were only original to a player of his calibre. Although he did win a major honour during his time with the club, he did deliver special moments such as the performance in Marseille and will be fondly remembered.

He joined Barcelona in the summer of 2003 who outbid Manchester United for his services and went on to claim two FIFA World Player of the Year Awards, becoming the world’s best as many knew he could – and would – at the Parc des Princes.


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