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The Cold War delayed my appreciation of Ronaldinho's genius, and over the past 11 years it has been difficult to keep up with the Brazilian's turbulent career.
As I struggled to remain focused in my GCSE History exam, Ronaldinho was announcing his arrival on the world stage with a perfect lob over David Seaman in Brazil's 2-1 victory against England at World Cup 2002. Moments after his goal the then 22-year-old received a red card for planting his studs on Danny Mills's ankle, providing a glimpse of what was to come from this flawed genius. Ronaldinho, not Mills.
'Did he mean it?' bleeped the text from my dad after I hurriedly exited the exam room to find out the result. Of course he meant it, didn't he? Ronaldinho's magic show has repeatedly provoked the question, from his free-kick in Shizuoka to this incredible strike for Atletico Mineiro last year. And like all great entertainers he has maintained a mystique, performing his dazzling array of tricks without ever revealing his methods and concealing all clues with his iconic smile.
It was Ronaldinho's unbridled joy on the pitch that caused him to be loved so dearly during his prime at Barcelona and Joga Bonito typified his approach to the game on the European stage. He played for fun, and also to show off by embarrassing defenders with his wonderful skill. It seemed that winning came a distant second to enjoyment for Ronaldinho and compared to the almost robotic consistency of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, whose achievements are somewhat numbed by relentless statistics, his rise and fall makes for a more compelling story.
The magician's act doesn't always go to plan and as Ronaldinho returns to the Brazil fold to face England, we are left to reflect on a career sawn in half. Following five years of enormous success at Barcelona - where he was twice crowned World Player of the Year - have been five years of decline, and at 32 Ronaldinho is fortunate to have one last chance to lead Brazil when they host the World Cup next year.
"It is a special game for England with the FA celebrating 150 years," said Ronaldinho after admitting his surprise at earning a recall from Luiz Felipe Scolari. "I'm sure they will be looking for a good result to celebrate the occasion, but we are going to ruin the party. For me, this game does not have the word friendly in it."
It's not like the party boy to spoil the fun, but the lifestyle that has been blamed for Ronaldinho's fall from grace will have to be curbed if he is to remain a part of Scolari's plans. It would have been fascinating to see the worlds of Ronaldinho and Sir Alex Ferguson collide had Manchester United's pursuit been successful in 2003, and the man Marca once described as being 'able to transform pressure into fun' recently boasted to sambafoot.com: "If Manchester United had signed me they would have won more European Cups."
It doesn't seem right that Ronaldinho should be allowed to grow old and as he performs his act in England for probably the last time, we will hopefully be treated to all the old tricks - the stepovers, the flip-flap and the incredible finishing. With Neymar and Jack Wilshere both set to start, Wednesday's match continues to usher in a new era for both England and Brazil, but it is also an unlikely chance to reminisce about one of the game's great entertainers.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.