Ronaldinho is spending his landmark 40th birthday behind bars, his staggering football career a distant memory and the prospect of six months in prison a millstone around his neck.
The Brazilian legend – or Prisoner 194, as he is now known – stunned millions around the world with his never-ending arsenal of tricks, feints and jaw-dropping strikes. Everywhere today, March 21, there are videos of his heroics.
That Elvis-like hip swivel against Chelsea, just over 15 years ago. His first goal for Barcelona – an absolute thunderbolt from miles out. One prominent Twitter account heralded him as “the man who made so many of us fall in love with football”.
Ronaldinho was detained on March 4 for attempting to enter Paraguay with a fake passport. He was officially arrested two days later.
He and his 49-year-old brother Roberto left a court hearing in handcuffs on Wednesday after both denied going into the South American country illegally. The 2005 Ballon d’Or winner’s lawyer called him “stupid” because he “didn’t know he was committing a crime, because he didn’t understand he’d been given false documents”.
Now, the former Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain icon is trapped in a jail threatened with coronavirus. His appeal against a judge’s decision to swap his jail remand for house arrest was knocked back last week and he was warned he faced six months inside.
Ronaldinho, a star of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup winning side and one of the greatest ever footballers, is being held in a prison on the outskirts of Paraguayan capital Asuncion.
This birthday will be a far cry from others, including his 26th, when he partied until 6am at a Barcelona nightclub.
His 32nd, which lasted five days and cost tens of thousands of pounds, took place at a luxury hotel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Pele sent a greeting after last year’s bash saying: “Whenever I see Ronaldinho he always has a smile. Happy birthday my friend.”
Photo Credit: Getty