Ronaldinho has been heralded as one of the most skillful footballers to have ever played the game, lighting up European football for many years, always with a smile on his face.
His exploits at Barcelona saw him claim a Champions League trophy in 2006, as well as shaping a team that became the best in the world.
An individual master and former Ballon d’Or winner, the Brazilian playmaker has also played with some of the finest stars on the planet.
He is therefore well placed to select his Champions League dream team. Take a look at his eleven talented picks below.
The Brazilian playmaker enjoyed successful spells in Europe with Barcelona (left) and AC Milan (right)
Although Ronaldinho never featured on the same team as the Italian stopper, his record in Europe speaks for itself. 135 Champions League and UEFA Cup appearances; the most expensive goalkeeper of all time enjoyed individual and team success with Parma and Juventus.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘There have been some very good goalkeepers in my era, but Buffon is there for consistency. Most of the goalkeepers have had times when their form has not been so good, but Buffon has been at such a high level for so long.’
The Brazilian full back defined an era for his position, bombing down the flank as Brazil’s class of 2002 were heralded as one of the best of all time. Spells in Italy with Roma and AC Milan saw Cafu bring his attacking nature to Europe, and he captured the Champions League in 2007 in his penultimate season as a professional.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘You don’t become the most capped player in Brazil’s history, without being very special. I was so happy when he finally won the Champions League with Milan, for the best right back ever not to win the biggest club trophy would not be right.’
Cafu had spells in Europe with AC Milan and Roma, and finally claimed glory in the Champions League in 2007
A mainstay in Chelsea’s back four for over a decade, Terry was involved in several fierce battles with Ronaldino in the Champions League and was able to lift the trophy in 2012. The no nonsense captain has dedicated himself to the Blues, and has been rewarded with 13 major club honours.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘We [Barcelona] had some big Champions League games against Chelsea, and I could see then why John Terry is still so important for them now. He is very tough to play against, but he is a fantastic leader, the leader you need in those sorts of games.’
Chelsea’s John Terry tries to tackle Barca star Ronaldinho during a Champions League tie at the Nou Camp
Another one-club man, Maldini won 26 trophies during his glittering 24-year career with Milan. A typical quick, elegant and colossal Italian defender, he holds the record for appearances in UEFA club competitions at 173, as well as netting the fastest ever goal in a Champions League final in 2005 (50 secs, vs Liverpool). Oh, and a haul of five European Cup winners’ medals (1989, 1990, 1994, 2003 and 2007) isn’t bad either.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘He was one of the best defenders in Champions League history, but what was so impressive about him is that when he was on the ball he didn’t look like a defender, but like an elegant midfield player.’
Paolo Maldini (right) holds the record for appearances in UEFA club competitions and is an AC Milan legend
Like Cafu, a marauding defender who brought the art of Brazilian flair to defending. Claimed three Champions League titles with Real Madrid (1998, 2000, 2002) and was a true Galactico at the Bernabeu. Netting three goals in 161 European outings, Carlos also had a ferocious left foot.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘Would be worth having in any team for his ability to take free kicks, but as well as being one of the best free kick takers ever, he is also one of the finest left backs ever. So important to all of Real Madrid’s Champions League wins.’
Ronaldinho taps Brazil team-mate Roberto Carlos on the head during a training session in 2006
The Real Madrid left back was known for his attacking prowess, as well as his fierce left-footed free kicks
His exploits with Real Madrid and Chelsea saw a holding midfield role named after him, so Makelele ought to have claimed more than the one Champions League final success (2002). Small in height but pulled no punches in the tackle, Jose Mourinho built a successful team around the Frenchman at Stamford Bridge.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘Defenders feel safe knowing that he is ahead of them, the attackers feel safe knowing he is behind them, for me he is the best I have ever seen doing the job of protecting the defence. You never saw him play a bad game.’
Claude Makelele tries to tackle Ronaldinho during a second leg tie at Stamford Bridge
The ‘Makelele role’ became famous after the Frenchman’s successful spell at Chelsea
The model goalscoring midfielder over the last decade, Lampard’s late surges into the box were a driving force for Chelsea and he finally claimed the European Cup in 2012 after a victory against Bayern Munich. The England international scored 23 goals in 106 appearances in the Champions League.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘I told Frank Rijkaard that we (Barcelona) should sign him, but he didn’t want to leave Chelsea. I am sure they would not have let him go, at that time he was one of the greats in Europe. His goal record from midfield was what really impressed me.’
Frank Lampard and Ronaldinho shake hands after an entertaining fixture in 2006
The Brazilian says he urged Frank Rijkaard to sign the England midfielder, and praises his goal record
When Ronaldinho left Barcelona for Milan in 2008, he linked up with his Brazil team-mate and Ballon d’Or winner. Although his record move to Real Madrid did not quite work out, Kaka’s influence and elegance in the No 10 role in a team that reached two Champions League finals in three years (2005 and 2007, winning the second) must not be forgotten.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘Things did not work out for Kaka as well as expected at Madrid, but we must not forget the player at Milan who was the real Kaka. For two, maybe three seasons he was the best player in the world, there was nothing he couldn’t do.’
Brazil team-mates Ronaldinho and Kaka pose for photographers at a press conference in 2005
The duo went on to play with each other at AC Milan, Ronaldinho says he was ‘the best player in the world’
If anyone was to usurp Ronaldinho at Barcelona, they would have to be some player. Lionel Messi is that man. The record goalscorer in the European Cup (75), three Ballon d’Ors, and three Champions League titles (2006, 2009, 2011) in one of the greatest club side’s in history, the Argentine forward has it all.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘I have won everything, it is impossible for me to have regrets. I do wish though that I could have played with Messi for longer than I did at Barcelona. There are no words to describe him; he just has magic in his feet.’
Lionel Messi has won it all in Europe – three Champions League winners’ medals and three Balon d’Ors
Combined grace and speed with a sublime eye for goal, and came so close to Champions League glory with Arsenal in 2006. The club’s record goalscorer opted for pastures new when Barcelona came calling, but only briefly played with Ronaldinho. A European Cup followed in 2009, and Henry finished with a record of almost one in two in European competitions.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘My good friend who I played with at Barcelona, and there was even a chance that we nearly played together again in New York. Just a nightmare for defenders, was quick, had skill, and was strong.’
Henry is Arsenal’s record goalscorer and has a fine record in European competitions
One of the greatest finishers to ever grace the planet, Ronaldo had the world watching his every move on the pitch as he dazzled with Brazil, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. He scored 49 goals in 93 European appearances, but unfortunately never lifted the Champions League trophy.
Ronaldinho’s verdict: ‘He was my idol and then I end up playing and winning a World Cup with him. The most complete striker there has ever been, the most complete striker there will ever be, it is almost unbelievable to think that he never won the Champions League.’
Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Manchester United in a quarter-final clash at Old Trafford in 2003