Stellars Club

The day that Ronaldinho put on his feet the Bernabeu

“Stage fright.” That was how Jorge Valdano described what rival teams experienced when visiting the capital’s imposing stadium. It was a fear that gripped the legs and made almost everyone who stepped out onto the pitch lose faith, ready to challenge Real Madrid at home for victory. However, on that 19 November, a Brazilian with a smiling face found no fear, but quite the opposite in the stands of the eternal rivals.

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, better known as Ronaldinho Gaúcho, had arrived in Barcelona two seasons earlier, in 2003, and from his first goal against Sevilla made it clear that his talent was not something from this planet.

Despite his quality and that of his teammates, the results did not accompany the culé team that year, seeing how Real Madrid and just after Valencia F.C. in 2004, would snatch the league championship.

That night, however, F.C. Barcelona visited Madrid at the top of the table. The Madrid team had the chance to overtake Barça and take the lead if they won, and playing at home the slogan was to invoke the famous “Stage Fright”.

Both the fans and the squad that year were optimistic, as at that time Real Madrid were also known as the Madrid of the Galacticos, due to the great stars that played in their ranks.

The starting eleven was a statement of intent. To the goal Casillas. Sergio Ramos and Iván Helguera in the centre of defence. Michel Salgado as a right back next to Roberto Carlos on the left. Beckham, Pablo Garcia and Zinedine Zidane in midfield. Up with the triple “R”. Raul, Robinho and Ronaldo “The Phenomenon”.

Millions, glamour and titles galore on the backs of those players.

In the opposite field Barcelona did not hide anything either.

Víctor Valdés in goal. Puyol and Edmilson of central. Oleguer and Gio on the right and left wing respectively. The Mexican Rafa Marquez, Xavi and Deco in midfield with a very young Messi, Eto’o and Ronaldinho in attack.

Two superpowers took to the field at the same time, with 78,000 souls cheering them on. A pressure cooker on the verge of exploding as players from both teams made the round of greetings. As fate would have it, the final embrace of two Brazilians. One Ronaldo, winner of the Ballon d’Or in 2002. Another Ronaldinho, who was already known winner of the same in the ceremony to be held 9 days later.

Ronaldinho began the party very active but somewhat misguided.

In the 14th minute Gio providentially cut off one of Madrid’s first chances of danger. From there would be born the first goal of the night.

Leo Messi, who was making his debut in a classic with only 18 years, would cross the field at great speed without finding resistance to make a break to Helguera almost on the edge of the area.

After getting free from the Madrid centre-back the ball was left at the feet of Samuel Eto’o, who beat Iker Casillas with a low shot. 0-1.

From that moment on the fear was slowly settling but not in the skin of the rival team, but in the skin of the white fans.

Every time that Barcelona took the ball the danger was palpable. Messi was unleashed, and put in trouble the patience of Casillas with each move. After a filtered pass to the left corner of the area, he even scored a great goal in the corner which was disallowed for offside moments later.

Eto’o followed his personal revenge and meanwhile little by little Ronaldinho was entering the party. Every ball he received was solved with a dribble or an exhibition pass.

It was half-time and Real Madrid felt they were getting off to a good start.

Just before the whistle to start the second half, a spontaneous man jumped naked onto the pitch, prompting the stadium’s security guards to make a run for it.

The cameras caught David Beckham in disbelief, unable to contain his laughter at the image of his compatriot, the famous streaker Mark Roberts with a message referring to the galactic nature of his backside.

After the break the ball was rolling again but things were not getting any better for the white team. On the contrary.

A few minutes later Raul was seriously injured after a bad gesture before hitting a bitten ball.

Messi would return to forgive a new occasion, nevertheless, it would be the last one that would let escape the Barça. In the 59th minute Ronaldinho would sew the ball to the boot to start from midfield and leave planted to Ramos with a cut out. With an incredible speed would reach the area where again Ivan Helguera could only see how he was overcome without much effort. Roberto Carlos would try to reach the cross but the die was already cast. Ronaldinho would cross the ball to the short post before the astonished look of Iker.

0-2. The whistles began to sound from the stands. Real Madrid were getting hammered without anyone being able to put things right.

The game continued to give away moments of danger for Barcelona until, after a threat to the center, the Brazilian goes out to the outside overcoming the Camas with ease. Next station Iker Casillas. The keeper tries to close the gap until the ball goes low to the long post. Nothing to do. Time of death: Minute 77.

Real Madrid 0, F.C. Barcelona 3.

The astonished faces of the galacticos gave way to something historic, perfectly portrayed by the Canal + cameras.

The famous man with the moustache, possibly a lifelong Real Madrid member, standing next to his son spontaneously applauding a goal of the eternal rival. Little by little more. Many of them. Thousands of moustachioed gentlemen are getting to their feet. Little by little a Santiago Bernabeu would turn stage fright into recognition to the astonishment of that player. To the astonishment of that alien dressed as a football player glued to a smile.

A legend: Ronaldinho Gaúcho.

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