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Soccer superstar Ronaldinho was a member of Brazil's 2002 World Cup championship team and twice won the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
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While leading his team to a variety of junior championships, Ronaldinho immersed himself in Brazil's long and glorious soccer history, studying past greats such as Pelé, Rivelino and Ronaldo, and dreaming of following in their footsteps. Then, in 1997, a teenaged Ronaldinho won a call-up to Brazil's Under-17 national team. The squad won the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in Egypt, and Ronaldinho was selected as the tournament's best player. Soon afterward,
Ronaldinho signed his first professional contract to play for Grêmio, one of the most celebrated teams in the Brazilian league.
Ronaldinho made his senior debut for Grêmio in the 1998 Copa Libertadores tournament. The next year, he was invited to join the senior Brazilian national team to compete in the Confederations Cup in Mexico. Brazil turned in a second-place finish, and Ronaldinho won the Golden Ball Award as the tournament's best player as well as the Golden Boot Award as its leading goal scorer.
Firmly established as a star on the international stage, in 2001 Ronaldinho left Brazil for Europe, signing a contract to play for Paris Saint-Germain in France. A year later, he participated in his first World Cup on a loaded Brazilian squad that also featured Ronaldo and Rivaldo. Ronaldinho scored two goals in five matches, including the game-winner in a quarter-final victory over England, and Brazil went on to defeat Germany in the finals to claim its fifth World Cup title.
In 2003, Ronaldinho fulfilled a lifelong dream by joining FC Barcelona of the Spanish league, one of the world's most storied clubs, and winning the legendary No. 10 jersey typically worn by the squad's greatest creative player. In 2004 and 2005, Ronaldinho won back-to-back FIFA World Player of the Year awards, the sport's highest individual honor. He also led his teammates to the pinnacle of club success in 2006 with a triumphant run through the prestigious Champions League tournament. The following month, Ronaldinho headlined a very talented Brazilian squad that entered the World Cup with sky-high expectations. The tournament ended in disappointment for the defending champs, though, as France knocked Brazil out with a stunning upset in the quarter-finals.
In 2008, Ronaldinho left Barcelona to join another of the world's most renowned clubs, A.C. Milan, but his performance for the Italian Series A giant was mostly nondescript. Underscoring his fading status, the former World Player of the Year was not included in the 2010 Brazilian team that competed in the World Cup in South Africa.
In 2011, Ronaldinho returned to Brazil to play for Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro. The relationship between the club and its most prominent player got off to a great start when Flamengo won the 2011 Campeonato Carioca, but things turned sour by the following season. Ronaldinho missed several practices and performed indifferently in games, and eventually had his contract terminated due to unpaid wages. Ronaldinho signed with Atlético Mineiro in June 2012, a move that reignited his dynamic playmaking abilities, and he was given another shot with the national team to make the 2014 World Cup roster.
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