One of the most stylish and gifted players of his time, Ronaldinho had a career that few can claim. He won a World Cup, one league titles, the Champions League, was twice named the world's best player and he had the first video on YouTube to hit 1 million views. He even got a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu. He enjoyed a long and storied career and I recently had a chance to sit down and talk to him about his career and some of the highlights along the way.
Much of the conversation centered around the boots that he wore during his career and the moments he remembers while wearing an impressive lineage of Nike boots. He also really loves soccer boots and chatting with about the boots he wore throughout his career definitely brought back some memories for him.
With all that Ronaldinho has accomplished in his career it was apparent that at the end of it all he just really loves the sport and he really enjoyed his time on the field. And that is one of the things that I always most admired about him. He played with a joy that you don't always see players at the highest level have. Yet he was one of the most accomplished players of his generation and he did it all with that legendary smile of his.
The room that the interview was conducted in was a visual display of Ronaldinhos career and the boots that he wore. When he entered the room it was obvious that he was reliving some of the moments from his career when he looked at each of the various boots.
This room is a visual history of your career represented by the different boots that you wore. What are your thoughts on that?
It's beautiful to see my history told by the different boots and models that I wore throughout my career. I wore Nike boots for 15 years during my career and it is a special thing for me.
Boots were the biggest companion throughout my career. More than family or girlfriends. My boots were always with me.
You wore different boots throughout your career. Did the boots you wanted to wear evolve over time?
Yes, it changed and what you look for in a boots changes as you move along in your career. I was lucky enough to be able to be a part of the process in changing things when it came to my signature boot. The little things make all the difference and that was important to me with my boots.
My favorite boot that you wore was the white and gold Tiempos. And when I think of your career in terms of boots, I think of you wearing Tiempos. What is your connection with Nike Tiempos?
That is a very important boot because of the details of those boots but also very important because of the moment. That was when we did the crossbar ad with Nike. That was an amazing year at Barcelona with a lot of very important goals scored with this boot. Ten years later they relaunched the boot which was a really special thing. I always felt really good wearing that boot. I thought I looked good wearing that boot. To this day, there are a lot of kids that bring this boot with them when they ask me for an autograph.
I have the re-released version of these boots up on my wall as an art piece.
What were key elements that you always looked for in a boot?
Comfort was always the first thing.
I also eally wanted to be able to have a good feel on the ball, so the material of the upper was always important. I liked leather because I felt like I had a better touch on the ball.
The sole was very important as well. I never wanted anything that hurt my feet at all, so that was a very important detail. I also really like my boots to match my uniform. I never wanted my uniform and my boots to be very different colors. I always liked to coordinate.
What did it mean to you to have your own boot, with your name on it that you got to help design?
I'm very proud of it. Not a lot of players have that opportunity, even more during that time. It's a realization of a dream and it meant I had reached a very important moment in my career and I'm very proud to have that dream came true.
During the interview there were two quotes that Ronaldinho said that probably stuck out more to me than anything else:
Throughout my life there was never a better gift than boots and balls. No little toys or anything like that. All I wanted was football boots and balls.
There is a saying in Portuguese that "you are dating the boot"
I don't think there is much more needed in terms of understanding what the sport means to him and the importance that soccer boots have had in life and career.
As you look at these boots in front of you, what are they key moments from your career that stand out in your mind.
(Ronaldinho looks out at the boots laid out on the table in front of him and starts picking up different models while saying the following:)
I scored a bicycle kick for Barcelona in these. Champions League in these. Played in a World Cup in these. Hat trick in these. Another bicycle kick in these.
No. Big. Deal.
It was incredible to hear him list some of the memories that he has that are associated with the various boots the he wore throughout his career. Seeing him relive these moments through the boots he wore was rad.
Ronaldinho has the distinct honor of being featured in the first video to hit 1 million views on YouTube. And he did it wearing pair of Nike Tiempos that he will forever be linked with. That video sparked a global conversation about whether the video was real or not. So I had to ask about that.
When you did the infamous crossbar video, were there a lot of people that asked you if it was real or fake?
That was the first video that got to 1 million views on YouTube! It was an explosion of joy! But yes, everyone would ask me that question. And they still do! That video didn't stay in the past. It is still here with us and is a part of the sport.
The video was really important to help define me outside the field and the freestyle that I was an ambassador for. In the streets, everyone was trying these moves and being free and trying to do things. That is the main importance of the video - that extra feeling that the video inspired.
Ronaldinho wore some amazing boots throughout his career. But what are his most stand out pair?
My favorite boots were the all gold version - but what everyone remembers most are the white with gold Tiempos.