Remembering The Day That Ronaldinho Caused The Bernabeu To Stand
15 years after Ronaldinho made the move from PSG to Barcelona we recall his greatest moment for the Catalan giants. It was a night at the Bernabeu when Madridistas could do nothing but pay respect to his phenomenal performance.
I will never forget this because it is very rare for any footballer to be applauded in this way by the opposition fans. Ronaldo de Assis Moreira
The receptions usually reserved for opposition players during El Clasico involves widespread intimidation and merciless derision. Cultural and political differences often come to the fore when Spain and Catalonia meet, and that's before you start on the severed swine projectiles.
On Saturday 19th November 2005, one player united both sets of supporters inside the Santiago Bernabeu in a feat of brilliance not seen since Diego Maradona's days in the 'Blaugrana' jersey.
Twenty two years earlier, 'El Diego' was applauded by the Los Blancos fans in Madrid and no one, not Ronaldo, not Romario, not Stoichkov or Rivaldo had earned the same honour until Ronaldinho showed up in the Spanish capital in the midst of his greatest ever season.
Seven months previously, the Brazilian had sent Real a preview of what was to come, when he delivered a glorious chipped through ball for Xavi to poke past Iker Casillas as Barca left the Bernabeu with all three points. That appetiser, as sumptuous as it was, would be nothing compared to the main course.
Former Real striker Samuel Eto'o had expertly toe poked Barca into a 1-0 half-time lead. But even the free scoring Cameroonian couldn't steal the headlines with Ronaldinho in the form he was in on this day. The former PSG man could have won his 2005 Ballon d'Or for this performance alone.
His first touch alone was taking defenders out of commission and the impudence of his no look passes embarrassed bewildered opponents. In the 37th minute, a slalom through Madrid's defence was halted by Iker Casillas, but Vanderlei Luxemburgo's men were now firmly on the ropes and Barcelona's number 10 had the half-time interval to prepare his mercurial one-two knockout combo.
Michel Salgado and Sergio Ramos had barely untwisted their blood from the torment of the opening 45 minutes when, 13 minutes into the second period, Barca countered from a Real corner and the ball landed ominously at the feet of the world's finest footballer.
Ronaldinho, in the midst of his historic Bernabeu performance. Image: PA
Ronaldinho galloped towards Iker Casillas' goal, leaving Ramos chewing the Bernabeu turf, Ivan Helguera wrong footed and Roberto Carlos despairingly too late as he effortlessly caressed the ball past Spain's number one.
Even one of the world's greatest ever full-backs was no match for his Brazilian counterpart on 19th November. Image: PA
Just under 20 minutes later and Ramos must have been wondering what he'd done in a previous life to deserve such punishment, as once again the young Spaniard was left with a task as enviable as trying to catch smoke. Before the former Sevilla defender knew where he was, the ball had flashed past Casillas and Barcelona were home and dry.
The scoreline read 3-0 to Barcelona, but it may as well have been 13-0 such was the gulf in class that Ronaldinho provided, that day. The Santiago Bernabeu faithful arose for a Barcelona player for only the second time in their history and no player, not even Lionel Messi, has been able to replicate the achievement in the decade since.
Words by Joe Baiamonte.