90min
World News

8 of football's bright young talents inspired by magician Ronaldinho

Grey Whitebloom
Ronaldinho's generational talent has been the inspiration for a host of today's exciting young stars
Ronaldinho's generational talent has been the inspiration for a host of today's exciting young stars / MAURICIO LIMA/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

The blur of feet, goofy smile and surfer's thumb. Ronaldinho, with his care-free, flair-based approach to the beautiful game, is one of the defining footballing figures since the turn of the century.

His talent is one that can be appreciated by generations both past and present. But as the star of the first video to ever reach 1m views on YouTube, Ronaldinho has become the inspiration for a new breed of players.

Instead of being forced to gratefully lap up the rare instances of live football dripped onto the TV schedule, these modern-day players have grown up with Ronaldinho's mind-boggling flicks and tricks mere clicks away. Leading to an influx of daring, captivating young talents rising to the fore of the European game.


Gaetano Castrovilli (Fiorentina)

Fiorentina's 24-year-old midfielder has been one of the breakout stars in Serie A of recent times. Castrovilli's languid, balletic weaving between opponents has often been put down to his year spent studying classical dance, but it is the Brazilian who was his inspiration.

On his first day of training with Bari's youth team, the Italy international turned up in a Ronaldinho shirt. No surprise then that Castrovilli has averaged more dribbles than any other Serie A midfielder.


Dele Alli (Tottenham)

Since August 2017, no Premier League player has completed more nutmegs than Dele Alli's 21
Since August 2017, no Premier League player has completed more nutmegs than Dele Alli's 21 / ANP Sport/Getty Images

The Tottenham player was one of many to lose hours on end to online compilations of Ronaldinho's skills, but it was his demeanour on the pitch which really captured Alli's attention.

He explained: "[I liked] the way he enjoyed playing, he always looked like he was having fun. And that was the way I wanted to play as well...I wanted to do what made me happy and you could see that with Ronaldinho. In everything he's done, he looked like he was enjoying it," as quoted by Goal.

In a turn of events which must have been bizarre for the Spurs midfielder, Ronaldinho revealed he was thrilled with the praise, even likening some of Alli's goals with those from his own back-catalogue.


Matheus Cunha (Hertha Berlin)

A well-known origin story in the myth of Ronaldinho was how he honed his skills on the futsal courts of Brazil. His compatriot Matheus Cunha shared that early development and even cited it as his favourite sport to this day.

As well as an idol, Ronaldinho can be considered a friend by the in-form Cunha, who has certainly taken after his fellow Brazilian with a taste for the spectacular. To go alongside his solo effort against Hoffenheim last season, Cunha made the shortlist for the 2019 Puskás Award - an annual prize for the 'most beautiful' goal.


Julian Brandt (Borussia Dortmund)

Cunha's Bundesliga rival Julian Brandt may not be able to lay claim to the same personal relationship with the Brazilian legend, but Borussia Dortmund's brilliant midfielder has also described Ronaldinho as an inspiration.

While the 24-year-old was quick to express 'I am a character on my own', the German playmaker recognised the influence of Ronaldinho 'because he always showed how much fun football can be'.


Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

Bruno Fernandes was unbeaten in his first nine games for Manchester United prior to the suspension of play
Bruno Fernandes was unbeaten in his first nine games for Manchester United prior to the suspension of play / James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Manchester United's catalyst for a much-needed upturn in form has already won the hearts of those in red by floating menacingly between the lines, lacerating opponents with pinpoint passes.

Fernandes may transfix the Old Trafford faithful for years to come, but it was Ronaldinho who captured his imagination as a young boy: "For me, he is the player with the capacity to take you and put you in front of the TV, and you will stay for hours. For hours!"


Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)

During his days in the classroom - which, considering the heights he has already reached, were not that long ago - Sancho wasn't a disruptive presence but football, and in particular a certain Brazilian, somehow found their way into Monday morning Maths.

Sancho's youth-team coach at Watford Louis Lancaster told the BBC: "I remember one of his teachers saying: 'Jadon, can you get off YouTube and carry on with your work. I look over at his computer and he's got Ronaldinho on the screen. Down goes the browser. She turns around, I look back - Ronaldinho's back on the screen."

The 20-year-old punctuates his seemingly endless stream of goals and assists with a flash of Brazilian flair, spawning a torrent of compilations of his own skills to distract the schoolchildren of today.


Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

Ironically, Sterling has flourished into one of Europe's deadliest forwards under the stewardship of the man who ended Ronaldinho's Barcelona career.

Nevertheless, Sterling is another member of the England setup who trawled through the Brazilian's highlights online, even claiming: "If you check my history on YouTube, I think I have watched every single clip of his playing career."


Lieke Martens (Barcelona)

Lieke Martens helped Barcelona claim their first Spanish top flight title in five years this season
Lieke Martens helped Barcelona claim their first Spanish top flight title in five years this season / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

The player of the tournament and eventual winner of the 2017 Women's European Championships turned to Ronaldinho as her footballing idol because, as she explained in the Players' Tribune: "I didn't have any female heroes."

Martens achieved her childhood dream of playing for her idol's team, Barcelona, in 2017.

But, as she eloquently outlines in her Players' Tribune article, her real achievement is that, instead of Ronaldinho, she - and a myriad of other women - can be the inspiration for the next generation of players.


facebooktwitterreddit