Castelldefels (Spain) : Ronaldinho danced, danced and danced. It was 5.15 a.m. in Castelldefels, near Barcelona, and the player was far from calling it quits after a night of partying.
Some 1,400 kilometres away, his teammates slept; they were playing Manchester United on the following day, in a game they eventually lost and which put an end to an era that the Brazilian once led.
By that time, between night and morning, Ronaldinho had already taken off his white shirt and was dancing reggaeton with beautiful women at the nightclub Sandunguita, in which he was the centre of attention. The night had a clear Brazilian accent in a town on the Mediterranean, a few kilometres south of Barcelona.
Seven hours earlier, at around 10.30 p.m., Ronaldinho had dinner with six friends at the Casanova Beach Club, a restaurant and pub that was recently opened on Castelldefells’ beachfront. The elegant terrace overlooking the sea was closed on the cold Monday night, April 28.
Inside, only one table is taken, besides that occupied by Ronaldinho and his entourage, who are enjoying a typically Brazilian rodizio with pork chops, beef and picanha (rump cover), with a cake buffet for dessert.
This time the rodizio replaced the pasta and pizza that the player’s crowd usually go for at the nearby Casanova. Both restaurants are owned by the Italian Mimo, a friend and protector of the Brazilian.
The new place still lacks the Ronaldinho trademark that the Casanova enjoys. At the pleasant pizzeria, Mimo set aside a place devoted to Ronaldinho, who usually shows up at night in the company of women, relatives or his usual group of friends.
At Casanova there is a Star’s Corner, the place where Ronaldinho and company always sit to enjoy spaghetti carbonara and entrecote. To drink, they take Clara (beer with lemonade), and sometimes wine. On many nights, the bill is on the house, on Mimo. As to tips, they sometimes leave 12 euros, sometimes nothing.
What stands out in the Corner is a mural of Ronaldinho in the Barcelona shirt, with his arms stretched out in a cross over Barcelona, just like Christ the Redeemer dominated Rio de Janeiro from the Corcovado. And yet the player seems to have lost his aura.
“He is always very nice to clients who approach him, particularly children,” said employees.
Ronaldinho will sign however many Barcelona shirts. And he showed that Monday night. A man showed up at the Casanova Beach Club with his daughter, dressed in Barcelona’s second shirt, and the player talked to the girl with a smile.
The striker and his entourage left the restaurant and arrived at Sandunguita at around 1.15 a.m. They had left the Hummer at home and were travelling in two Range Rovers.
Everyone was waiting for Ronaldinho. There was a Brazilian party at the club — a Caribbean oasis in Port Ginesta, near Castelldefels, the glamour-less village in which the player lives.
Ronaldinho gave many hugs and kisses. Everybody knew him, and those who did not wanted to know him. He ordered a beer, and everyone around — including many Brazilians — stared at his tall, muscular body.
He was wearing a dark hairband, a white shirt with a white vest, jeans and white trainers.
At 2 a.m., Ronaldinho’s friends tuned their voices and instruments, and reggaeton and the popular song Umbrella gave way to live samba and funk.
Ronaldinho sang, played the kettledrum and the tambourine. And he danced non-stop. He bought beers for his friends, and he even mediated in a fight — he did not want anyone to ruin his “noite mais linda”.
As he danced, there was no trace of the muscle injury that prevented him from travelling to Manchester with his team. Football- wise, it had been a good day for Ronaldinho: in the morning he had been able to run on the pitch, after not doing it for weeks.
On the dancefloor, he showed good movement of his hips and waist, the kind of movements that many defenders still remember.
At 4 a.m., Brazilian music was over and reggaeton returned. But the night was young; it was simply time to take off the shirt. In his white vest, the Brazilian showed off his talent as a dancer, surrounded by beautiful women.
“It closes at 5 (a.m.),” people said.
But past that hour the Sandunguita was still open, and Ronaldinho, in good company, had a smile that he had for ages not shown on a football pitch.