Joshua G. Grüber: My Gamechanger

Every once in a while a player appears and changes the way we perceive football. This series is for these special players.

In 2003/04 Barcelona signed a relatively unknown entity (I say relatively unknown due to the fact he destroyed England in the 2002 World Cup quarter finals). His name, Ronaldinho.

After a somewhat low key first season, where he produced glimpses of magic, the 2004/05 season began. This is when the Ronaldinho show started.

Ronaldinho not only changed the way we played football but he also changed the way we wanted to be perceived. Before him, I did not see many footballers smiling much on the pitch or even looking like they actually enjoyed playing the game. Only goals would produce smiles before Ronaldinho.

His smile was contagious; he would create something magical and then produce a cheeky grin afterwards. It had never been seen before.

We all hear about players who can do “amazing” skills on the training ground but Ronaldinho did not just leave it there. He brought these skills to real games and was not afraid to attempt the outrageous. This completely changed the way we thought about football, no one else had the confidence and the arsenal of trickery to actually use on fellow professionals.

Some of the skills he produced had schoolchildren in the playgrounds or on the parks trying to recreate the scenario to practice it over and over and over again. One time whilst surrounded by several players he got out of trouble by balancing the ball on his chest/shoulder. I mean, is that even real?! We’re not talking about a Sunday league game (which would be impressive in its own right), we’re talking about a fully professional football game with all of the best players in the world.

Ronaldinho made football look like the greatest sport on Earth and proved you can have fun by just expressing yourself and by using your imagination to create oppurtunities. With this mentality, he is only player I ever seen receive a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans during an El Clásico.

Before he joined Barcelona they finished a lowly 6th and barely just qualified for the Uefa Cup (now the Europa League). After Ronaldinho’s first season, he lifted them to 2nd and automatic Champions League qualification. In the 2004/05 season, he took Barcelona to their first league title since the 1998/99 season. This proves he wasn’t all about flair; he also had the end product. The Barcelona we all see today was just blossoming into something very special.

Ronaldinho was the catalyst behind the dominant Barcelona we have seen in recent years. He revived the team as well as the city and they haven’t looked back since. He influenced fans and players alike, paving the way for future generations.