Ask football supporters for their favourite player of all time, and Ronaldinho is sure to appear prominently among the answers.
Not as many might suggest he was the best or the most talented, but Ronaldinho’s impact on the sport transcended a career that some would argue was riddled by underachievement.
It’s often the case that the brightest sports stars struggle when their playing days come to a close, lacking the same structure and direction that the life of a professional athlete tends to provide.
Ronaldinho—a World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002—proved no different, living a life of excess in retirement that led to his bankruptcy and, ultimately, five months in a Paraguayan prison.
Those legal troubles stemmed as a result of the 41-year-old’s overt willingness to invest in a multitude of money-making opportunities, both in the football sphere and further afield.
The ventures included betting endorsements, apps and his own cryptocurrency, none of which could be considered as having hit their target, even with support from one of football’s most recognisable faces.
Ronaldinho—who also won the Champions League with Barcelona in 2006—retired at Fluminense in 2015, and a picture taken alongside a fan in the months after spoke volumes regarding his fall from grace.
Almost universally renowned for the flicks and tricks that highlighted his performances, Ronaldinho cast a solemn look after crashing into a ditch shortly after hanging up his boots:
It wasn’t until 2019 that Brazil’s tax authorities caught up with the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year (2004-05).
Newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported in July of that year that the former Barcelona ace had been fined 9.5m reais (a little more than £2million) for building a pier without permission at his home in Porto Alegre.
Ronaldinho’s Brazilian and Spanish passports were confiscated as authorities also sought £1.69million in unpaid debts, seizing 57 properties filed under his name.
An attempt to enter Paraguay alongside his brother, Assis, using a fake passport eight months later resulted in his imprisonment. He was then held in the country under house arrest to bring his total detention time to 171 days, finally allowed to leave following his release in August 2020.
Always smiling, it seems Ronaldinho had a generous side too with one of his close circle saying: “but not all of them are true friends, and I see a lot of damage being done to him.”
Dubai’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs recently handed Ronaldinho a 10-year ‘golden visa’, following other superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Novak Djokovic to be given the residency award.
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Long gone are the days when one of Brazil’s most famous sons routinely lit up Europe’s greatest stages, but even after his many controversies, Ronaldinho is recognised as a legend in his field.
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