Ronaldinho: Chelsea were the hardest English team to face – and they tried to sign me

Ronaldinho has told FourFourTwo that he has no regrets about missing out on a move to the Premier League, but believes that playing in it would have been ‘special’.

I don’t regret not having played in England, but it could have been special because it’s a fantastic league. Chelsea tried to take me there once and other teams were interested, too

The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year has been courted by a host of English clubs during a career that has included spells in the French, Spanish, Italian and Brazilian top flights.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Blackburn, QPR, Stoke and even Basingstoke Town have all been linked with deals for the 2002 World Cup winner over the years, to no avail, with the attacker returning to Brazil in 2011 after winning the Champions League with Barcelona and Serie A at Milan.

But speaking exclusively in the March 2017 issue of FourFourTwo – having invited us round to his Rio de Janeiro apartment – the Samba star admits a transfer to England would have been memorable had he taken the plunge.

Portraits: Gabo Morales

The league there is so fast and so intense all of the time – it’s great to watch and not boring at all. I will see more of the highlights and the goals in the Premier League than I see of other leagues around the world

“I don’t regret not having played in England, but it could have been special because it’s a fantastic league,” he says. “Chelsea tried to take me there once, and some other teams were interested in signing me, too.

“The league there is so fast and so intense all of the time – it’s great to watch and not boring at all. I don’t tend to watch all 90 minutes of Premier League games, but I will see more of the highlights and the goals in the Premier League than other leagues around the world.”

Barcelona and Chelsea were involved in several titanic Champions League tussles while Ronaldinho was at the Camp Nou, with the Blues prevailing in 2005 despite the Brazilian scoring one of the greatest goals in the competition’s history.

“There was a lot of futsal in that goal,” he explains. “It was just a solution I found at that very moment, I didn’t plan it. Futsal is beautiful – not as much as it used to be, like in the days when keepers couldn’t also be strikers – but it is still beautiful.”

Barça got their own back by eliminating Chelsea a year later, and the pair then clashed again the following season in two group games. Unsurprisingly, Ronnie says the Blues were the hardest team he faced during his Blaugrana days.

“In Europe it had to be Chelsea,” he says. “We played against them every year in the Champions League – it was always fierce.”

Read the full interview with Ronaldinho in the March 2017 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. A South American special, we also chat to Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta about learning English while watching Coronation Street, learn that West Bromwich Albion powerhouse Salomon Rondon doesn’t actually like heading, reminisce with former Real Madrid forward Robinho and meet up with Bayern Munich enforcer Arturo Vidal. Plus, we find out why Oscar swapped Chelsea for China, look back on the early days of Diego Maradona’s career at Argentinos Juniors, hear some remarkable tales from football’s own Forrest Gump, aka Nelson Vivas, and find out how Chapecoense go about healing a club and local community following November’s plane tragedy in Colombia. Order it now, and then subscribe here!