Wednesday March 21 2018
Happy birthday, Ronaldinho

Today is the 38th birthday of former Milan attacking midfielder Ronaldinho, who played 11 times in the 2010-11 Scudetto season.

The Brazilian joined the Rossoneri in a €24m deal from Barcelona in the summer of 2008, looking to revive his career after an indifferent final season at Camp Nou.

Where once he was considered the best player in the world, Ronaldinho’s focus and professionalism were called into question toward the end of his spell in Catalonia, with just nine goals in 26 games in his final season.

Though he never quite regained the heights he had reached with Barça, the skilful attacking midfielder showed glimpses of his genius in Rossonero.

Ronaldinho immediately endeared himself to the Milan fans by scoring the winner against Inter in the Derby della Madonnina in September 2008.

A brace against Sampdoria arrived the following month, but after a strong start to his first season with the Diavolo, the Brazilian dropped off as 2009 came around.

Carlo Ancelotti left at the end of that season, with Leonardo replacing him on the San Siro bench.

Given more freedom in a left-wing role by his compatriot, Ronaldinho enjoyed his best season for the club after hitting form in January.

A brace against Juventus was followed by a hat-trick against Siena the following week, including a trademark goal from the edge of the box.

Picking up the ball on the left, Ronaldinho rolled his foot over the ball, shook his hips in his inimitable samba style, and unleashed a rocket of a strike which found the top corner.

Ronaldinho finished the season with 15 goals in all competitions, as well as nothing up the most assists in Serie A.

Leonardo left at the end of the season though, and the Brazilian found less space under his replacement Massimiliano Allegri.

Milan would go on to win the Scudetto that season, and Ronaldinho did make 11 appearances, but he returned to his homeland in January, joining Flamengo.

Allegri had almost entirely excluded the former World Player of the Year by that stage, and the first man to coach him in Italy understood the decision.

“I am not surprised by the decline of Ronaldinho. I saw it coming,” Ancelotti told the Corriere della Sera in 2010.

“His physical condition has always been precarious, while nobody could doubt his talent.”

Ronaldinho wound down his career in Brazil - as well as a brief spell in the Liga MX with Querétaro - but he was a shadow of the player who had lit up Europe in the first half of the 2010s.

Milan didn’t see the best of Ronaldinho, but there were enough moments of magic to endear him to the Rossoneri faithful.

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