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Ronaldinho’s star appeal is as bright as ever, 20 years on his brilliant goal against England

Ronaldinho’s traveling circus came to rest in Miami, and the chic hotel that dominates the skyline in the shape of a giant guitar buzzed with South American legends evoking an era when football took on a different rhythm.

There was Rivaldo, mingled with his pink vest and tattered jeans. There were Ivan Zamorano and Rene Higuita who volunteered for their service.

And Carlos Valderrama, unmistakably 60 years old under a mass of curls and dressed in a T-shirt with the image of his friend and fellow Colombian international Higuita.

The traveling circus of former Barcelona and Brazilian star Ronaldinho came to rest in Miami

The traveling circus of former Barcelona and Brazilian star Ronaldinho came to rest in Miami

Ronaldinho prefers a lower profile these days, but his brother and adviser Roberto Assis and his manager Rodrigo Alvim, a former left-back and team-mate when the Brazilian icon was in the twilight of his playing career at Flamengo, were in the lobby business on the rush.

Various schemes are already in full swing. These include the popular exhibition games in collaboration with Roberto Carlos, under the name ‘The Beautiful Game’, the first Saturday of which took place in South Florida.

And other charity events to promote, such as the Third Peace Match, scheduled for October at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

Last month, Ronaldinho, along with Dani Alves and Maxi Rodriguez, visited Pope Francis, who blessed the ball and an olive branch.

Ronaldinho has rebuilt his life and reputation in the two years since his arrest

Ronaldinho has rebuilt his life and reputation in the two years since his arrest

There is also an official range of NFTs called Dinhos for sale, and Team Ronnie is exploring more opportunities to invest in and around football and sportswear.

In this way, Ronaldinho has rebuilt his life and reputation in the two years since his arrest and detention after entering Paraguay with a false passport while an investigation into unpaid taxes was underway.

He lives much of the time in Dubai, where the tax rules are more to his liking, but he is often in Rio de Janeiro. Or he’s just out and about, Ronaldinho.

It’s been 20 years since his evasive free kick left an indelible mark on England, embarrassing veteran David Seaman and reaching the World Cup quarter-final in Shizuoka, Japan.

It's been 20 years since his evasive free kick left his indelible mark on England at the World Cup

It’s been 20 years since his evasive free kick left his indelible mark on England at the World Cup

Ronaldinho claims he knew David Seaman was off his line when he scored from 45 yards outside

Ronaldinho claims he knew David Seaman was off his line when he scored from 45 yards outside

“An important goal for me,” said 42-year-old Ronaldinho shrugged last week as he recalled the approaching anniversary.

“People ask about it all the time, but it was special because it was in the World Cup and it was the last time Brazil won the World Cup, so it’s special. One of the most special moments in my life.’

It’s his most famous act in Brazil’s livery and Ronaldinho has never shied away from the story that he knew Seaman was off his line and went on target, deliberately finding the top corner from 45 yards and to the right.

Others on the scene that day think otherwise. Writing in his autobiography Sven: My Story, published in 2013, England boss Sven Goran Eriksson said: ‘Did Ronaldinho want to aim or was it just a lucky shot?

His most famous act in Brazil's colors is to settle the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup

His most famous act in Brazil’s colors is to settle the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup

‘I asked him that in Portuguese a few years later. He laughed: “But Sven you know it was a shot”. “You’re lying,” I told him. I was a hundred percent sure he wasn’t going to shoot.’

Brazilian boss Luiz Felipe Scolari remains equally skeptical. “In my opinion, he tried to cross,” Scolari . said sports post in an interview in February.

“Every time we’re together, we joke about it. I tell him, “I don’t think you tried to get that ball in. You couldn’t have seen David Seaman out of the goal.”

“He replies, ‘No, coach, I had studied him, I knew he did.’ And we burst out laughing. I still believe in my idea and he believes in his. The most important thing is that we were able to score the goal.’

Brazil defended the lead and won 2-1, despite more than half an hour of 10-man play, after Ronaldinho was sent off shortly after his goal for a foul on Danny Mills.

“Never a red card,” Mills confessed on the radio many years later. “It was a late challenge, he caught me and I went down and was about to get up when Paul Scholes came up and said ‘Stay down, the referee has a card out’.”

Brazilian boss Luiz Felipe Scolari remains skeptical that Ronaldinho wanted to shoot the ball

Brazilian boss Luiz Felipe Scolari remains skeptical that Ronaldinho wanted to shoot the ball

Nothing was as it should have been, it seemed. Apart from that, Brazil was definitely the best team of the tournament. They defeated Germany in the final, two goals from Ronaldo helped to soften his scars from France 98.

World Cup success catapulted Ronaldinho to the top. Within a year, he joined Barcelona, ​​beating Manchester United and buying him from Paris Saint-Germain for €30 million.

It was a major coup for Joan Laporta, the new Camp Nou president, and proved a catalyst for the glittering period of success that followed.

Ronaldinho won the Ballon d’Or twice in two years and in 2006 Barça won the Champions League for the first time in 14 years.

Ronaldinho won the Ballon d'Or twice in two years and won the Champions League in 2006

Ronaldinho won the Ballon d’Or twice in two years and won the Champions League in 2006

He left for AC Milan when Lionel Messi emerged and Pep Guardiola’s industrious tiki-taka team took shape, laying out a new tactical blueprint with rapidly diminishing space for luxury playmakers with a penchant for late-night partying. Perhaps he will go down as the last of them.

After two and a half seasons in Milan, Ronaldinho returned to Brazil, where he briefly played in Mexico and played futsal in India before confirming his retirement in January 2018.

Two years and two months later, he was besieged by tax troubles and in prison, with reports of property seizures.

His 40th birthday was spent behind bars when he and Roberto used false documents to enter Paraguay, where they would launch an online casino and a book. Their Brazilian and Spanish passports were suspended by the Brazilian tax authorities.

The brothers spent a month in prison, from then on stories circulated of Ronaldinho playing futsal with inmates, before being fined and under house arrest for four months at the four-star Palmaroga hotel in the Paraguayan capital Asunción. They were released in August 2020.

None of this has tarnished his image in Brazil. Maybe it even embellished it in a way because he kept smiling and being nice like Ronaldinho.

“Outside of football, there have always been stories about him,” explains Brazilian football journalist Josue Seixas.

“He dribbles, he laughs. He is the lucky player who wants the ball and people call him bruxo, or wizard, because of what he can do with the ball at his feet.

“He sings and appears on pagodas or sambas, even plays futsal with inmates and wins trophies in prison, things you can only put Ronaldinho’s name on. We call it a rolê aleatório, like any role. That is a role aleatório that only Ronaldinho can do.

“He is more honored for his achievements. People love him and he is part of Brazilian football culture, probably in the top 10 as our best players should be ranked.

Ronaldinho scored the opener in a celebration of 12-10 goals during an exhibition game in Miami

Ronaldinho scored the opener in a celebration of 12-10 goals during an exhibition game in Miami

“Of course you feel that he could have done more with his talent. There were a lot of expectations for him during the 2006 World Cup and it didn’t happen, and his career went down, but there were good times in Brazil with Flamengo, Atlético Mineiro and Fluminense.

“People were happy to see him back here because he was probably the best player in the league and still showed some of his magic.”

The old magic still works when he turns it on. So is the infectious smile. It’s just that neither rolls out so easily.

In Florida on Saturday, Ronaldinho scored the opener in a 12-10 celebration of goals played at a leisurely pedestrian pace.

He barely moved, but reveled in acclaim as he performed his tricks in front of a crowd the size Inter Miami would attract for their MLS games.

And it’s not just the fans and the veterans he can attract. The modern stars of football were in force there.

His opening goal came thanks to a pass from Paulo Dybala, taking a break from talks when he moved from Juventus to Inter Milan.

Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior was featured and so was Paul Pogba, for the first time since injury forced him during Manchester United’s 4-0 defeat to Liverpool in April.

There’s just something about Ronaldinho, isn’t it? Star appeal, maybe. Or the x factor. There was always.

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