The rise and fall of Brazil and Barcelona legend Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho was the goofy buck-toothed star who became the best in the world after inspiring Brazil and Barcelona to glory, but his post-playing days have been engulfed by scandal as he remains in prison in Paraguay after arrest for using fake passport

  • Ronaldinho has been embroiled in scandal since retiring in January 2018
  • He married two wives and was left with just £5 in his bank account 
  • Former World Cup winner and Player of the Year is currently in jail in Paraguay
  •  He is in maximum security prison after being arrested for using a fake passport

The same goofy buck-toothed smile remains, but the wrinkles around the eyes are more pronounced. He’s dressed in a purple tank top and Nike slippers. Nothing seems awry, except Brazilian football legend Ronaldinho is being snapped in his Paraguayan jail cell.

Since finally retiring at the start of 2018, his life off the pitch has been under a more intense microscope. His public support of controversial president Jair Bolsonaro has made headlines back home, so too last year when 57 of his properties, including his Brazilian and Spanish passports, were confiscated because of unpaid taxes and fines.

A passport has again thrust him into the news this week as he remains behind bars in Paraguay without the possibility of bail after a court ruled that he and his brother Roberto used counterfeit identification to enter the country.

Ronaldinho smiles for the camera as he remains inside a prison cell in Paraguay 

Ronaldinho and his brother Roberto (right) were arrested for using fake passports 

The former star leaves Paraguay’s Supreme Court in Asuncion after a court appearance

The 39-year-old has been denied house arrest, the ruling coming a day after he offered to post an $800,000 bail bond by putting up a local businessman’s property as collateral in exchange for being moved from a maximum security jail to house arrest.

Ronaldinho traveled from Brazil to Paraguay last Wednesday to attend the unveiling of his book Genius of Life and to participate in the launch of a non-governmental organization introduced by local businesswoman Dalia Lopez, who allegedly played a role in obtaining the altered passports.

Brazilian businessman Wismondes Sousa Lira, who is also being held, said in court on Monday that Lopez handed him the passports, which he turned over to Ronaldinho and his brother in Brazil.

Ronaldinho’s lawyer claims the former World Cup winner is ‘stupid’ instead of guilty, saying he ‘did not understand’ he was using false documents when he travelled to Paraguay last week. 

But the case continues to rumble on, with prosecutor Osmar Legal telling Brazilian outlet Globoesporte that there were ‘indications that other crimes were committed’.

Ronaldinho arrives at Silvio Pettirossi International Airport near Asuncion last week

Since hanging up his boots just over two years ago, Ronaldinho has been embroiled in scandal as his personal life has continued to unravel.

Dubbed a hero by some and a sexist by others for the arrangement, he made headlines for reportedly marrying two wives in 2018. This came around the same time that his former club Barcelona, who he inspired to Champions League glory in 2006, distanced themselves from him and Rivaldo for their public support of Brazilian president Bolsonaro.  

A thorough search of his bank accounts revealed a balance of just over £5, and speculation grew that the former star, sponsored by big names such as Nike and Pepsi for the duration of his glittering career, had spent up.

Priscila Coelho, one of the two wives, who gave up her studies and profession to reside with him, then left Ronaldinho citing aggression and opened a legal case to take one third of his earnings from 2012 to 2018 after the pair failed to reach a separation agreement in private. 

Ronaldinho in his heyday, playing for Barcelona in 2006 when he won the Champions League

Ronaldinho struck up a partnership with a teenage Lionel Messi during his Nou Camp days 

Creditors have also launched their own separate action to recuperate an additional £2million in other debts.

His lawyer denied last year that his client’s assets are currently under restriction.

But Ronaldinho trudges on in the same carefree manner he did on the pitch – that iconic, goofy smile stretched permanently across his face unmistakable and recognisable to all, whether he be out partying or holed up in Paraguayan prison cells.

Not once has Ronaldinho, a YouTube player of glorious skill and panache, who married his talent with the ball at his feet to an intense will to win, expressed an interest in entering coaching or football administration.

Many of his peers from a golden generation of Brazilian legends have done so, but he has been living permanently in Rio de Janeiro where better weather and beaches are offered to him than in the Baltic south.

Filling his days with samba and living the good life, he is now an ambassador for Teqball, a football-based form of table tennis, and still able to demand up to £120,000 per sponsored Instagram post.

He was a footballer who played with a smile on his face, who brought joy to fans across the world, but that legacy is fast vanishing in his turbulent post-playing days.

Ronaldinho helped Brazil lift their fifth World Cup title in Japan and South Korea in 2002 

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