Ronaldinho’s ultimate XI named as Messi included in deadly Barcelona attack

There was a time, in a world before the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry, that Ronaldinho had a legitimate claim to be the very best player on the planet.

At his dazzling best, the Brazilian was an absolute joy to watch, establishing himself as an icon for a generation of football fans as he played the game with a beaming smile on his face.

But as good as he was, he couldn't do it alone.

Ronaldinho's career in Europe also took him to Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan, but it is at Barcelona where he is most fondly remembered having been a fixture for five years at the Nou Camp.

It is no surprise then that an XI of his most frequent teammates is packed full of Barca legends.

The rules

  • The XI is made up of players who made the most appearances alongside our featured player or for our featured manager. We're not looking for an overall 'Best' XI, and the player/manager himself isn't in it.
  • For a player, the appearance numbers are based on the time they spent on the pitch at the same time as our main man, factoring in both club and international level.
  • This isn't necessarily the eleven players who've spent the most time on the pitch with/for him, just the eleven that would fit into a working team.
  • We're not going to come up with a Garth Crooksesque formation, but we might name subs if we feel like it.
  • All minutes played and appearances stats are courtesy of transfermarkt.co.uk.
  • Don't get angry in the comments section.

Here's Ronaldinho's pretty formidable ultimate XI.

Goalkeeper: Victor Valdes

Appearances with Ronaldinho: 189

A staple in these teams whenever we've looked at a Barcelona legend, goalkeeper Valdes was a virtual ever present during Ronaldinho's five years at Barca between 2003 and 2008.

Right-back: Gianluca Zambrotta

Appearances with Ronaldinho: 119

The only man in the team to have played with Ronaldinho at two different clubs, the Italian international spent two years with him at Barca before both joined Milan in 2008, and they spent three years together there.

Centre-back: Carles Puyol

Appearances with Ronaldinho: 182

Ronaldinho's former Nou Camp captain, Puyol was a fearsome defender and a player who became a Nou Camp icon over years of success.

Centre-back: Rafael Marquez

Appearances with Ronaldinho: 142

Marquez spent seven years at Barca after making the move from Ligue 1 in the same summer that Ronaldinho did in 2003, but while Brazilian had been at Paris Saint-Germain the Mexican had spent four years at Monaco.

Left-back: Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Appearances with Ronaldinho: 129

Formerly a midfielder at Rangers and Arsenal, the Dutchman was transformed into a reliable left-back during his four years at the Nou Camp, which began like Ronaldinho in 2003.

Midfield: Xavi

Appearances with Ronaldinho: 172

The midfield maestro was emerging into his pomp during Ronaldinho's five years at Barca, but he'd later fully discover it under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola.

Midfield: Andres Iniesta

Appearances with Ronaldinho: 154

Iniesta was just 19 when Ronaldinho joined Barca in the summer of 2003 but his obvious quality had already taken him into the first-team, where he remained a fixture until 2018.

Midfield: Deco

Appearances with Ronaldinho: 132

The stylish Brazil-born Portugal international linked up with Barca after winning the Champions League with Porto in 2004, and won two La Liga titles and the Champions League during his time at the club.

Attack: Ludovic Giuly

Appearances with Ronaldinho: 98

The quicksilver wide man could often miss out on a first-team berth, but his quality from the bench and when starting was evident during three seasons at Barca.

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