Why Did Ronaldinho Quit Soccer So Early?

Michael Claunch

Why did Ronaldinho quit soccer?

Every player’s career path is different, and even the greatest stars sometimes fail to maintain their success for long. Perhaps the most puzzling player of his generation, Brazilian forward Ronaldinho was certainly someone who left fans wondering what could have been. After an explosive arrival on the global scene and a formidable peak when he was arguably the best player in the world, the fall of Ronaldinho was equally shocking.

Since many fans don’t know for sure what year did Ronaldinho retire, we will try to present the facts about this amazing player fairly and impartially. The idea is to give contemporary fans a better idea about the whole situation and clarify why Ronaldinho retired from the elite-level competition earlier than most of his peers.

Why Ronaldinho was a special player

Ronaldinho was very young when his play in the Brazilian league attracted the eye of the scouts and made him a hot commodity in Europe. At the age of 20, he signed a contract with PSG and immediately made an impact, becoming a regular starter and a reliable scorer. Two years later, in 2003, he transferred to Barcelona, where he completed his transformation into a real offensive force. For the next several seasons, Ronaldinho was the best player on one of the best teams in the world, leading Barca to several trophies and winning a handful of prestigious individual awards. He won the FIFA Player of the Year award twice and added one Ballon d’Or title to his resume, while Barcelona won big both on the national and international level.

The style of play that Ronaldinho personified is often regarded as the next step in the progression of the sport, adding superb athleticism to the traditional qualities of top Brazilian stars, such as dribbling proficiency and creative passing. For a few short years, he was seen as the rightful heir to the long line of Brazilian soccer greats such as Pele, Zico, and Ronaldo, a magician on the field that made every move seem easy and playful. Just when it seemed he was destined for sports immortality, his career suddenly started trending in the wrong direction.

Fall from grace and decline into obscurity

In 2008, Ronaldinho left Barcelona to join another storied European club – Italian powerhouse AC Milan. For the next three years, he tried to reinvent himself as one of the leading players but repeatedly failed to recapture his old form. Despite winning one Italian championship with Milan, his time at the club was mostly viewed in a negative light. He was frequently criticized for a perceived lack of effort and professionalism, never truly establishing his dominance over the squad or earning the trust of managers.

Ronaldinho at AC Milan (2008-2011) / “coup franc par Ronaldinho” by abdallahh is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

At just 31 years old, Ronaldinho decided to leave European football and return to South America. He spent the next three years in relative obscurity, playing for clubs in Brazil and Mexico. While he remained very popular among the fans, and his teams were generally successful, this phase of his career was a far cry from his glorious prime. He wasn’t even selected to represent Brazil in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, signaling that his star was quickly fading. If you are wondering – does Ronaldinho still play soccer? – he retired for good in 2018, long forgotten by the mainstream sports media. After a fairy tale start, it was simply mind-boggling that Ronaldinho’s career ended in such a humiliating fashion.

Did partying destroy Ronaldinho’s career?

Questions such as why Ronaldinho quit soccer and what were the main causes for the shortening of his career continue to be debated by soccer pundits. Many people believe that his fondness for nightlife and lax attitude to training greatly contributed to his fall from grace. Almost from the beginning, Ronaldinho was followed by whispers about his nightly adventures and immature behavior. A great example is a 2012 incident when he was caught drinking Pepsi during a press conference despite having a lucrative endorsement contract with Coca-Cola, resulting in the termination of the deal.

His raw physical talent was sufficient to make up for the lack of hard work while he was in his mid-20s, but the deterioration of his skills was rather swift once age started catching up with him. Since he didn’t suffer any catastrophic injuries that could account for the loss of the explosion, partying was taken as the most logical explanation. Stories of alcohol and drug use were especially damaging to his image, and by the end of his Barcelona tenure, he was seen as a potentially bad influence on younger players. This factor must be taken into account when analyzing why Ronaldo left Barcelona, even if it’s nearly impossible to verify the rumors now.

Should Ronaldinho be considered a soccer legend? 

Regardless of the year when Ronaldinho retired, it’s hard to deny that he left a huge mark in the history books of soccer. While he was at his best, the Brazilian athlete was as transcendent as they come, with moves that none of his rivals could repeat. He shined both on the top level of club soccer and collected nearly 100 caps for his native country, lasting more than a decade in the top tier of the world’s offensive players. His teams were extremely successful as well, as Ronaldinho won the World Cup, the Champions League, and an Olympic medal, among many other accolades.

The perception that Ronaldinho failed to reach his full potential may be partially misguided. He was still relatively young when he reached his incredible apex, and this level of production would be difficult to maintain for anyone. By setting the bar so high so early, he basically became a victim of his own success and drew the ire of critics. It may be true that his work ethic deteriorated after he gained money and fame, but given the pressures that elite athletes have to endure, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Instead of asking why Ronalidnho quit soccer so early, we should celebrate him for his impressive accomplishments and electrifying highlights.

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