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On July 19, 2003, FC Barcelona acquired Ronaldinho for £20 million.[8] Originally, Barcelona chairman Joan Laporta had promised to bring David Beckham to the club, but following his transfer to Real Madrid, Barcelona entered the running for Ronaldinho and beat Manchester United to his signature. It was thought that a failure on the part of the English and French clubs to agree on a fee was the reason Manchester United's deal fell through. Ronaldinho is also said to have signed with Barcelona instead of Manchester United because of his friendship with former Nike executive in Brazil and Barcelona's then vice-president in charge of sports, Sandro Rosell.[9] Ronaldinho's signing with Barcelona follows in the footsteps of a number of illustrious fellow countrymen who enjoyed successful careers with the club, including Romário, Ronaldo and Rivaldo.

2003-04 season

Barcelona quickly showcased the talents of their new striker in an exhibition match against AC Milan. The match took place in front of a crowd of 45,000 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Barcelona had a 1-0 lead through most of the first half, and they increased their lead to 2-0 when Ronaldinho scored in the 51st minute. Having received a short pass from Xavi, Ronaldinho fired a shot that spun around Fernando Redondo and into the net, landing him his first goal for the club.

After returning from injury in the first half of the campaign, Ronaldinho continued to justify his price tag by leading Barcelona to a second-place finish in La Liga during the 2003/2004 season

2004-05 season

Along with Samuel Eto'o, Deco, Xavi, Ludovic Giuly and Henrik Larsson, Ronaldinho comprised part of a strike force which helped bring the 2004-05 La Liga title for FC Barcelona. On December 20, 2004, Ronaldinho was named FIFA World Player of the Year ahead of Arsenal's Thierry Henry and AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko. It was then that Barcelona rejected a £60 million bid made for him by Chelsea F.C., according to Sandro Rosell.[8] .

In March 2005, Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea in the first knockout round. Ronaldinho scored a penalty kick and an impressive solo goal in the 4-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge. [10] After the match, he was involved in a physical altercation with Chelsea stewards following allegations that the stewards had behaved in a racist and provocative manner.[11] Neither team was punished by UEFA, who downplayed the incident as "a very minor scuffle" and lacked firm evidence about the alleged racism.[12]In June 2005, Rosell resigned from the Barcelona administration following a bust-up with Joan Laporta, and it was feared that his resignation would spell the end for Ronaldinho and Barcelona's association as well. With Ronaldinho's contract running only into 2008, he was offered a contract until 2014 that would net him £85 million over those 9 years,[9] which he rejected. Later that year in September, he signed a two-year extension of his original contract on with FC Barcelona. The new contract contains a minimum fee release clause that allows him to leave should a club make an offer to Barcelona of at least £85 million for him.[13]

2005-06 season

On November 19, 2005, Ronaldinho scored two solo goals to help FC Barcelona to a 3–0 win over arch-rivals Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid. After he scored his second goal of the night, his team's third, a large part of the Madrid followers gave him a standing ovation, a rare feat which had not occurred since Diego Maradona played for Barcelona in 1985.

In September 2005, Ronaldinho was crowned FifPro Player of the year, an award voted for by his fellow professionals. He was also named in the FifPro team of the year alongside the likes of Zidane and Maldini. In November 2005 Ronaldinho was named as both the European Footballer of the Year and the best striker in the 2004-05 Champions League. In 2005, Ronaldinho became the third Brazilian to win the Ballon d'Or. On December 19, 2005, he was again named FIFA World Player of the Year with 956 points, more than three times the 306 points of Chelsea's Frank Lampard, who finished second in the poll, and the 190 points of Barcelona team mate Samuel Eto'o who finished third. He was chosen for the UEFA team of 2005 for the third time running in January 2006.

On March 7, 2006, in the 2nd leg of the Champions League first knockout round at NouCamp, Ronaldinho avenged Barcelona's defeat to Chelsea in the same competition the previous year, running past the Chelsea defence to score. Although the game ended 1-1 with Chelsea equalling through a dubious penalty in the second half stoppage time[14][15], Barcelona progressed to the Champions League quarterfinal on aggregate(3-2), in which they beat SL Benfica 2-0 at Nou Camp (Ronaldinho having scored the first goal after missing an early penalty kick) after a goalless draw at the Estádio da Luz. In the first semi-final leg, against AC Milan in the San Siro, Ronaldinho once again proved his worth with a superb pass for the goal volleyed in by Ludovic Giuly, which brought Barcelona a 1-0 victory. The second leg game ended in a goalless draw despite a disallowed goal from Andriy Shevchenko in the 70th minute. The 0-0 result with AC Milan brought Barcelona to the 2006 Champions League Final in Paris against Arsenal F.C., who had not conceded a goal in ten Champions League matches, a competition record.

On May 3, 2006, Barcelona were crowned 2005-06 La Liga champions after they beat Celta Vigo 1-0.

On May 17, 2006, Barcelona became European champions after defeating Arsenal 2-1 in the Champions League final. In this match Ronaldinho was kept relatively subdued and the goals came from Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti, who were both assisted by Henrik Larsson. Ronaldinho finished the season with 26 goals in all competitions, his best goalscoring tally ever. It was rumoured on the 3rd of August that Ronaldinho might move to AC Milan, but Ronaldinho denied it. On August 24, 2006, Ronaldinho was named Champions League player of the year for the 2005-06 season.

2006-07 season

On September 12, 2006, Ronaldinho gave a stellar display as the defending champions Barcelona beat PFC Levski Sofia 5-0 in the Champions League. He was involved in two of the goals before wrapping up the win with a stunning strike in the final minute.[1]

On November 25, 2006, Ronaldinho scored his 50th league goal against Villarreal during a Spanish League match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. In that same match he scored a second goal by an over head bicycle kick, after controlling the ball with his chest. He later said that it was a goal he had dreamed of scoring since he was a boy.[16]

On December 5, 2006, Ronaldinho scored a low free kick against Werder Bremen in the first round of the Champions League to help Barcelona to a 2-0 win and send them through to the next round. He tricked the Bremen defenders by sending his free-kick under the wall, when his trademark is to bend it high, for Barcelona’s first goal and then picked out team mate Ludovic Giuly who passed to Eidur Gudjohnsen for the second.[17]

On December 14, 2006, Ronaldinho inspired Barcelona to beat Mexico's Club America 4-0 by scoring one and setting up two other goals to book a spot in the final of the Club World Cup at Yokohama, Japan where Brazil lifted their fifth World Cup trophy in 2002.[18]

On December 17, 2006, at the same Yokohama Stadium, Ronaldinho's efforts were not enough to beat his ex-rival team, the Sport Club Internacional, from Brazil. Barcelona lost 1-0 in the final. Ronaldinho won the Bronze ball award for the tournament.

The next day Ronaldinho appeared at the World Player of the Year Gala in Zurich to claim third place in the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year poll, behind the Italian World Cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro and Zinedine Zidane.[19]

In January, 2007, Ronaldinho was named among the UEFA Team of the Year for the third time in a row, receiving the highest number of votes in almost 292,000 nominations.[2]

On January 28, 2007, Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti announced his intention to bid for Ronaldinho in response to AC Milan's acquisition of Ronaldo just days before [20].

On March 13, 2007,the FC Barcelona attacker had been scheduled to play for Marcello Lippi's European XI, but he aggravated a previous injury during the 3-3 draw with Real Madrid on Saturday evening.

Despite Ronaldinho's absence, Lippi's squad still looks an imposing proposition for Sir Alex Ferguson, who has said he will put out his strongest available side.[21].[3]



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