How Ronaldinho rescued Barcelona from its forgotten nightmare

And in his first La Liga campaign, the Brazilian playmaker was central to Barcelona’s revitalization. In total, Ronaldinho notched 15 goals, seven of which were either the deciding or game-winning scores. Added to the tally were his 11 assists, as well as numerous pieces of skill and flair, dazzling fans worldwide.

The signing of Ronaldinho proved successful beyond Laporta and Rosell’s wildest dreams. After proving the perfect catalyst in year one, the playmaker flourished in the subsequent seasons as talent was added around him. On top of individual brilliance, the Brazilian was at the heart of a wave of trophies, including multiple La Liga crowns and a vaunted Champions League title.

More than that, Ronaldinho acted as a facilitator for what was to come. Nothing epitomized this more than his assist on Lionel Messi’s first league goal in 2005. In so many ways, he acted as a bridge for Barcelona, guiding the club from its debt-ridden, trophy-less period into its current era, where the products of La Masia have anchored a golden age.

“He was a great help,” said Messi in a 2013 interview. “It’s never easy to go into a changing room at the age of 16 especially with my character. Ronaldinho made everything much easier for me. I had the good luck to experience him first hand and to share many things with him. I can say that he’s a really great person and that’s the most important thing.”

And it was Messi himself who best summed up Ronaldinho’s lasting impact on the club.

“Ronaldinho was responsible for the change in Barça,” Messi explained. “It was a bad time and the change that came about with his arrival was amazing. In the first year, he didn’t win anything but people fell in love with him. Then the trophies started coming and he made all those people happy. Barça should always be grateful for everything he did.”

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