How Paris Engineered a Global Football Legend
Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho looks back on his formative years in the City of Lights.
There are some people whose stardom is so powerful, their presence can be felt in a room well before they’re even in it. Enter Ronaldinho Gaúcho. Sitting in a spacious suite at Parc des Princes, the atmosphere tangibly shifts when a WhatsApp message affirms the Paris Saint-Germain icon is en route. Now in his 40s, the one Parisians still affectionately refer to as “Ronnie” has gained a few more fine lines and silver threads since his formidable footballing heydays, yet both only serve to enhance his statesman-like gravitas as he floats into the room in a full-length coat. When he flashes that trademark grin for the first time, he radiates enough energy to power the City of Lights and regions far beyond.
“Paris is a city I love,” reminisces Ronaldinho, soft-spoken as ever. He first arrived in the French capital as a 20-year-old in 2000, having declined offers from European superpowers to sign for the then-sleeping giant, Paris Saint-Germain. Although the decision to turn down footballing aristocracy surprised much of the onlooking media, for Ronaldinho, the chance of guaranteed first-team opportunities in a World Cup season made perfect sense—that, and it presented the opportunity to follow his older brother, Assis, who had just signed for PSG’s Ligue 1 rivals, Montpellier.
My relationship with the supporters is special and I have so many fond memories.
The only words that come to my mind when thinking of Paris are joy, joy and joy.