At the turn of the millennium the Brazilian national football team were revered as the greatest football team on the planet – they had reached the final of the three World Cups from the years 1994 to 2002, winning two and losing the other.
Throughout those golden years for the Samba stars they had numerous players established among the best in the game. They played for the greatest teams, and won the most prestigious awards.
But now one has remained at the pinnacle of football for the duration of their careers and, for some, things have taken a turn for the worse since the halcyon days of the noughties.
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Here we examine the direction the careers of three Brazilians took following their respective time at the very top of the sport.
The former Real Madrid midfielder is actually the only footballer since 2007 to beat Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to the FIFA World Player of the Year (Ballon d'Or since 2010).
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Kaka was awarded the prestigious title after a stellar season playing for Milan where he contributed to the Rossoneri’s eventual revenge on Liverpool in 2007 Champions League final.
After scoring 96 goals from midfield in five years, Kaka became subject to a £100m transfer offer from the newly purchased mega- Manchester City in 2009; this would of made him the most expensive player of all time, but he subsequently rebuffed the offer claiming he ‘wanted to grow old at Milan’.
However, six months later Kaka joined Real Madrid for £68.5m and this is where his career began to stagnate. He began to suffer injuries, and found himself falling down Madrid’s pecking order.
Although his ability was still there, he garnered fewer appearances than he had at Milan – subsequently scoring fewer goals and providing less assists. Eventually after five years at the Bernabeu, Kaka returned to Milan, but he was never the same player.
He scored seven goals in 30 appearances in a struggling Milan side, he then had his contract terminated and joined MLS outfit Orlando City where he currently plies his trade – a far cry away from playing alongside Pirlo, Seedorf and Shevchenko.
It is hard to believe he is still only 32. What might have been had his time in Madrid not been so affected by injury.
Ronaldo is widely regarded as the greatest Brazilian phenomenon since Pele.
While playing for Cruizero as a 17-year-old Ronaldo netted 20 goals in 21 appearances, and in the following season he scored 24 in 26.
This frightening form earned him a place at the World Cup of 1994 and there were big expectations heaped on top of his shoulders. By the turn of the millennium Ronaldo had played for Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV managing to have a ratio of a goal-every-other-game, as well as picking up the FIFA World Player of the Year award during the years 1996 and 1997.
It was in 2001 where Ronaldo began to suffer from reoccurring injuries to his knee. He was forced to miss the entirety of the 2000-01 Serie A season. But he made his eventual comeback to competitive football just in time for the 2002 World Cup, where he would make history by equaling Pele’s scoring record in the tournament.
The then 25-year-old Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for a record £47m – all jerseys with his name on sold out as he became the main ‘Galactico’ alongside compatriot Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and David Beckham.
For the next three seasons Ronaldo would average 20+ goals per campaign but, by the 2006-07 season, there were serious concerns about his weight, and he found himself on the bench behind Ruud van Nistelrooy.
He subsequently transferred to AC Milan where he broke his leg, and later Corinthians before retiring in 2011 aged 34 citing hypothyroidism as part of his decision.
Undoubtedly one of the most recognisable faces in football, Ronaldinho rose to prominence during the 2002 FIFA World Cup, playing alongside Rivaldo and Ronaldo.
He scored one of the strangest free-kicks against then England goalkeeper David Seaman that led to their elimination in the quarter finals, while Brazil went on to glory.
A year after the tournament a bidding war between Manchester United and Barcelona ensued for the services of the then PSG midfielder. Barcelona was to be his destination, with £30m the transfer fee paid.
He became a fan favourite at the Camp Nou scoring 94 goals in five years at the Catalan club, winning La Liga twice, the Champions League once and the FIFA World Player of the Year twice in the years 2004 and 2005.
After five years in Barcelona, Ronaldinho left and joined AC Milan – where he would stay for around three years. However, he did not look like the same player who terrorised defences in the La Liga, or the player who got a standing ovation at the Bernabeu.
At the age of 31 Ronaldinho returned to Brazil to join Flamengo and later Atlético Mineiro. His time with the latter was an undoubted success, winning the Copa Libertadores in 2013.
Now aged 35, Ronaldinho plays with Querétaro in Mexico.
Will Brazil ever produce another group of players as great as this one? Let us know below!
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