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Sky the limit for Ronaldinho

by Jack Gallagher

YOKOHAMA — His haircut may be a bit outdated, but make no mistake about it, Ronaldinho’s game is about as vogue as they come.

The 22-year-old Paris Saint-Germain midfielder — who nearly single-handedly pushed Brazil past England in their World Cup quarterfinal — is truly a sight to behold. A key figure in six of Brazil’s seven victories on the way to winning the 2002 World Cup, one can only wonder what greatness the future holds for Ronaldinho.

A threat every time he touches the ball, Ronaldinho is one of those special performers who plays on instinct. He is so gifted that he doesn’t even have to think. He just creates, and when he is closed down, improvises and turns an average move into a spectacular one.

Anybody who thinks soccer is boring has never seen this guy in action. He is a playmaker who is on the verge of superstardom.

He plays soccer just like Magic Johnson did basketball as a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1980 — and sports the long hair from the same era. Possessing the vision and ability to make any maneuver seem possible, he has you on the edge of your seat, saying, “What is he going to do next?”

In Sunday night’s 2-0 World Cup final victory over Germany, Ronaldinho’s wizardry was on full display, as he worked a one-two with Ronaldo in the 18th minute, culminating in a perfect through ball that Ronaldo struck just wide as he was confronted by German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.

Ronaldinho fed Ronaldo again just over 10 minutes later with a perfect chip over a defender only to have Kahn repel the attempt once more.

Though neither move resulted in a goal, it was clear that not many ‘keepers besides Kahn could have stopped these superb setups by Ronaldinho.

As his teammates stepped up their offense in the second half, Ronaldinho dug in and made several fine defensive plays, seeing this was the manner in which he could contribute the most to his team.

Playing with such stars as Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Cafu, has certainly made it easier for Ronaldinho to learn and grow. But make no mistake about it, he has come into his own in this World Cup.

Being selected to the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team on Friday is just the beginning for Ronaldinho. You have the distinct feeling that it won’t be long before the Porto Alegre native will be departing the French League for a higher profile club in England, Italy or Spain.

This night belonged to Ronaldo, with his incredible comeback from two major knee injuries completed on the biggest stage imaginable, but Ronaldinho’s time will come — and soon.