Despite being blessed with breathtaking skill and almost supernatural ball control, the endearingly-modest Ronaldinho Gaucho still blushes when he is mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Zico or Pele. He may not pursue the kind of legendary status afforded to Brazilian greats Garrincha, Didi or Vava, but with each passing game the feeling grows that Ronaldinho could become one of the finest players the world has ever seen.
Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, better known as Ronaldinho, was born on 21 March 1980 in the Restinga district of Porto Alegre, in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. At the age of seven, older brother Roberto Assis, a professional at local side Gremio Porto Alegre, took the talented youngster to join his club's youth set-up. The Barcelona star has never forgotten his sibling's help in getting him where he is today. "My biggest hero is my brother. He's a shining example as a father, a brother and a footballer."
Eight years on, Ronaldinho received his first call-up for the Brazilian national team's junior side, and two years later he was a member of the team that won the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Egypt.
The Brazilian maestro turned professional in 1998, celebrating his first contract by helping Gremio to a 1-0 win over Rio de Janeiro side Vasco de Gama.
It would be another year before 'Ronnie' caught the eye of the world's footballing elite. In 1999, having top-scored in his side's State Championship win, Ronaldinho made his official debut for the Seleção in a friendly against Latvia. During that year's Copa America, the fleet-footed forward gave a tantalising glimpse of what was to come with a wonder goal in Brazil's 7-0 rout of Venezuela.
It was around that time, as Ronaldinho's career began to take off, that he was christened with the surname Gaucho, used to describe people from the Rio Grande do Sul region, in order to avoid confusion with the other Ronaldo, still known by many Brazilians as Ronaldinho. Nowadays, the pair's fame has reached such levels that such a distinction is no longer necessary.
In 2001, the rising star moved from Gremio to French side Paris Saint-Germain, though not without a protracted transfer wrangle between the parties involved. The move was completed in time for Ronaldinho to seal a place in the Auriverde squad for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, where he played a vital role in Brazil's success.
In the aftermath of his country's record fifth FIFA World Cup win, Ronaldinho returned to PSG, although not for very long. Despite speculation linking him with both Manchester United and Real Madrid, he ended up at Catalan giants Barcelona, who forked out a club-record €30m for his signature.
The FIFA World Cup winner arrived at Barça in time for the 2003/04 campaign when, after a rocky start to the season, a Ronaldinho-inspired revival saw Barcelona clinch second place behind Valencia. In 2005, the attacker reaffirmed his hero status in the eyes of the Blaugrana supporters with nine league goals and umpteen assists in his side's 17th Primera Liga title win, their first since 1998/99.
Currently one of the most famous faces in world football, Ronaldinho has amassed an admirable collection of individual awards in a relatively short space of time. In 2005 he was presented with France Football magazine's Golden Ball, awarded to the European Player of the Year, before crowning an amazing 12 months with his second consecutive FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Ronaldinho was magnificent for Barcelona as they won the league title 12 points clear of their nearest rivals, Real Madrid. He was also the league's third top-scorer with 17 goals, eight behind Valencia's David Villa and nine short of Samuel Eto'o's total of 26.
He was arguably the key player as Barca claimed their second European Champion Clubs' Cup title. As well as being the Catalan club's chief creator, he finished as the competition's second highest scorer and was also named as the Most Valuable Player of the 2005/6 UEFA Champions League.
At the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, Ronaldinho started all of Brazil's five matches. Arguably his best performance came against Japan when he showed off some of his trickery and managed his solitary assist for Gilberto's goal. Since the FIFA World Cup, he has played in three of five official matches under Dunga's command (one start, two sub appearances). After coming off the bench against Ecuador, Ronaldinho excelled, creating the winning goal for Kaka and hitting the woodwork twice.