Ronaldinho once revealed that Barcelona went easy on Arsenal in 2006 CL final

Barcelona entered the 2006 Champions League final as marginal favourites to defeat Arsenal at the Stade de France.

That favouritism grew even stronger after just 18 minutes when Gunners shot-stopper Jens Lehmann was given his marching orders for bringing down Barca striker Samuel Eto’o when through on goal.

Remarkably, though, Arsenal refused to wilt and took a shock lead shortly before the interval when Sol Campbell powered a header beyond Victor Valdes from a Thierry Henry free-kick.

Arsene Wenger’s men had been in fine form defensively throughout the competition, keeping a record 10 consecutive clean sheets on their way to the final.

Despite those impressive numbers, there was always a sense that La Blaugrana would break down the Londoners’ stubborn resistance eventually. However – 11 years later – Barca’s Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho would reveal that nobody was more confident than the La Liga giants themselves that they had the measure of Arsenal.

PARIS – MAY 17: Juliano Belletti (R) of Barcelona celebrates scoring his teams second goal with Ronaldinho and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst during the UEFA Champions League Final between Arsenal and Barcelona at the Stade de France on May 17, 2006 in Paris, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Eto’o was the man to bring the La Liga giants level 14 minutes from time before right-back Juliano Belletti sent Barcelona in front shortly afterwards.

Belletti’s strike was especially notable, as it would prove to be the sole goal of his Barcelona career. He couldn’t have come up with it at a better time.

His colleagues felt the same way as, according to Ronaldinho, Barca made the decision not to try and add to their lead so that Belletti could say that he’d scored the winning goal in a Champions League final.

PARIS – MAY 17: Ronaldinho of Barcelona in action during the UEFA Champions League Final between Arsenal and Barcelona at the Stade de France on May 17, 2006 in Paris, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

“We never doubted we would win that match,” Ronaldinho, told the Mirror in 2017. “Even when we were losing, we knew they were one man down and that it would cost them.

“We just figured that we didn’t need to rush, we just had to play our football.

“It could have been more than 2-1 – we kept it at that score so that Belletti could say he scored the decider! That was his only goal for Barcelona.”

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The 1995 Ballon d’Or winner was correct in his assessment and Barca coasted through the final 10 minutes to claim European club football’s top prize.

Supreme confidence – bordering on arrogance – from Frank Rijkaard’s charges. A touching gesture, but one that could easily have backfired.

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