How Ronaldinho rescued Barcelona from its forgotten nightmare

Having worked as Nike’s main representative in Brazil, Rosell had uniquely impeccable contacts among Seleção stars. And following his failure with Beckham, the situation could not have been more perfect for Rosell in the case of Ronaldinho. After all, he’d assiduously built relationships with Brazilian stars (including Ronaldinho) for years.

In an interview that Ronaldinho did with El Enganche in 2014, he explained the magnitude of Rosell’s impact, calling him “a great friend of mine.”

“I was almost on my way to Manchester United and only the details needed to be put onto that deal,” the Brazilian explained. “But in the last minute Rosell called me to tell me they would win the election. That made everything happen fast.”

Noting the allure of being Barcelona’s next great “R” (following a preposterously talented lineage of Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo), Ronaldinho reveled at the opportunity.

“I loved that,” he said, looking back at the challenge presented before him in 2003 by Rosell’s persuasive pitch. Mere days after it had appeared inevitable that United would sign him, Ronaldinho was confirmed as the first high profile signing of Laporta’s presidency. It would prove to be the first brick in the foundation of Barcelona’s modern dynasty.

The Beginning of an Age

Again, it can’t be understated how much of a staggering victory signing Ronaldinho would eventually be. First, simply getting a player of the Brazilian’s quality to sign with a club not playing in the Champions League (especially when the bid was in direct competition with Manchester United) was nearly miraculous. And on top of that, his impact would be instantaneous and profound, winning FIFA World Player of the Year in both 2004 and 2005.

More than that, Ronaldinho put a smile back on the faces of Barcelona fans (which was, not without coincidence, the title of a documentary the club made about him in 2013). His first goal at home for Barcelona was a showcase in exuberance, offering a glimmering taste of what was to come. Picking the ball up in his own half, he danced by two defenders before firing a rocket into the top corner from 30 yards out. The raucous reaction inside the Nou Camp caused a measurable seismic tremor in Barcelona.

After a sluggish start to the season (not entirely dissimilar to the dismal campaign a year earlier), Barcelona caught fire. Under new manager Frank Rijkaard, the team found its form and went unbeaten from mid-January until May (vaulting from mid-table to finish second).

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